The story of mask
masks are for more than safety
There’s a lovely word for driving wedges.
The awareness of and conscious wearing of masks was a new thing for many of us.
For some, they’re a symbol of oppression. For others, they are a symbol of caring.
This post isn’t for either of those groups.
Though masks are often used for protection from illnesses, in sports and at work those aspects of ‘masking’ I find tedious. I’ve been a mask maker for twenty five years. I love masks as tools for transformation.
For years, I worked in schools using theatrical masks to help young people get comfortable with being uncomfortable. They are objects to hide behind, creating the illusion of safety. While wearing them and feeling safe, people frequently can tap into something essential about themselves and reveal themselves to the world in ways they didn’t intend nor imagine possible.
I love playing in masks. I most of all loved playing in masks for my daughter.
I’ve never been the nurturing kind. My job was to show up and play. Sometimes showing up was more difficult than others. In those times we played tea party. I would lie on the floor. My daughter would surround me with stuffed animals tucked me in with blankets and hand me pieces of plastic food to eat or tea to drink. As I lay there. She crawl all over me and try to wake me up. Sometimes I engage other times I would actually fall asleep before she insisted that we do something new.
My favorite time to show up however was at snack time. After supper and before bed, we always had one final snack. This was when I would show up differently. Laura had a leather commedia dell'arte mask from her days in theater school. Commedia scholars would recognize it as Breghellia, a kind of Daffy Duck Sylvester the cat character. Our daughter simply called him mask.
Mask was the king of the big entrance. Our daughter would sit in the kitchen and mask would attempt time after time to enter the room. Each time he tried to get into the room, something would happen. Sometimes he'd trip slip or fall. Other times he would just smack square into the doorframe, misjudging the opening and crumpling down to the floor into a ball. With each bit of slapstick, our daughter's delight increased. One bit of ridiculous business lead to another with higher and higher stakes.
There'd be times mask would create the illusion of being chased by a dog. Other times, I’d get sucked away by a compelling force or called away on business. Sometimes I’d be attempting to bake a cake while reciting The Jabberwocky. It didn’t matter what the distraction was, mask could never enter the room successfully.
And for a very young child, this was the best thing ever.
We all have gateways to play and we all have gateways to connect. Sometimes showing up my means merely being a body in space. Other times showing up is about breathing life into something larger than ourselves for the delight of somebody else.
Masks aren’t some stupid piece of cloth that political types like to fight about. Masks are tools for transformation, revered objects that are used to create delight.
We all wear masks everyday completely unaware of the fact that we’re doing it.
Some people smile in attempt to ‘show’ they are agreeable. Others frown or take on a serious visage that begs: “please respect me”.
Makeup is a mask. Ditto Botox. And those Raybans you love? They’re masks too. They say a lot about how we’d like to be seen.
The masks that we turn our faces into are unconscious attempts to assert control over our environment. When we take away our faces, we not only take away a lot of data or inputs that we typically use as part of our emotional regulation systems, we also remove a lot of expression or outputs of our social / emotional regulation systems.
Masks are all about dress up, play and expression.
How do you show up to delight other people? What mask do you wear that fill you with energy and sends your heart soaring?
The mask I wore for my daughter’s delight is the best mask I’ve ever known.
What is the most glorious version of yourself that you use to connect to bring joy? Here's a hint. It's the version of yourself that you show up with when you're around two and three year olds.
So if you have no two or three year olds in your world, how can you find some to connect with how can you show up for that absurd ridiculous part of yourself that is acutely aware that it doesn't understand what the hell is going on with life. Yet doesn't care and in fact can lean in to the reality of the absurdity of existence. When playing in mask it’s easy to be present. And with presence, it’s enough that we enjoy our simple ability to be alive.
Show up and Win, is the world’s first personal development game show. Given my love of masks, you’ll likely find some there - the performance kind. Transformation awaits. Book your spot now. Spaces are limited and going fast.
Our bodies are a mask our soul wears. Mine has morphed, shed and accumulated continuously. One of my biggest revelations in life has been that people are essentially the same person they were at 12. We learn more, do more, want more but as Popeye would say, "I am what I am." Or more accurately, "I am who I am." I learned this while I waited to become an adult. Never happened. I am still 12 year old me with the mask (face and body) of an adult. Now, my mask continues to change and responds to my level of care for it, but my mask is slowly changing into a silly, wise and kind old woman. What a privilege to become old. I am not there yet. My mask has progressed its transformation a bit too rapidly during Covid. I remind myself, I am an essential worker: no lay offs, working with the public and intensive pressure during Covid and until now. This accelerated the mask metamorphosis. This summer will be my first time since before Covid to care for the mask that cared for others. I don't remember being this excited with anticipation in a very, very long time. My intensive time at work ends in exactly one month. Then I become a normal desk worker for two months, preparing for
next season. That in itself, will trigger the mask refit. It's a big job. I feel like the Bluenose going into dry dock after a particularly rough season at sea. Yup, a schooner spa. That's my visual for this year's mask repair.