You want to know a secret?
Everyone, EVERYONE, wonders if they are “normal”.
And we all try on different masks trying to hide the real us just in case we aren’t.
But none of them fit, none of them are comfortable and none of them really hide everything we wish they did.
So we go through life pretending to be someone we’re not, hoping the performance is adequate, making friends with people who are also wearing a mask and wondering why in the world it feels so false and unfulfilling.
I love, love, love this little poem by Shel Silverstein. He had a way of distilling truth to a few memorable words:
One of the gifts grief has given me is that I just do not have the energy to keep my mask on straight.
So I’ve decided to take it off.
And I find that when I do, people aren’t horrified, they are relieved.
Because that means they can take theirs off too.
We say we want real.
But we really don’t.
We tune in by the millions to watch “reality TV” even though we know the drama is manufactured and the outcome decided months before.
We participate daily in quiet subterfuge when our coworker pretends her marriage isn’t falling apart even though we overhear her desperate phone calls trying to mend it.
We like to hear “Fine, thank you.” when we offer the polite greeting, “How are you?”.
What happens to the person who refuses to play along? What about the one whose heart is so broken that she can’t begin to put on the false front that would make everyone else more comfortable around her?
What do you do when someone stops pretending everything is OK?
Often, people walk away.
Because we have absolutely no idea what to do with real. We have no words when “How are you?” is answered with “Awful. My world is falling apart.”
We reward those who choose to go along with the script that makes us comfortable and isolate the ones that don’t.
But is that the world we really want to live in? Do we want to walk with unsaid words between us, unreleased feelings bottled up and threatening to overflow?
It is really more admirable to pretend?
MASKS by Shel Silverstein
She had blue skin
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through.
Then passed right by —
And never knew.