The other day I got a writing prompt from Psyche’s Call that asked me to consider what hides behind my mask. Of course I would deny I have a mask – I like to claim that I’m as deep and mysterious as a babbling brook. Of course that’s bullshit. We all have masks we hide behind and roles we assume according to environment. At the same time I clearly have a bit of resistance to seeing mine so I decided to ask the Tarot.
I used Arnell Ando’s amazing Transformation Tarot (one of my favorites for this type of work) and asked “What hides behind my mask?” I drew the 9 of Wands. In a traditional RWS based Tarot deck this image would show someone pausing for a moment of respite after having survived a clearly exhausting experience. This figure on this card is more contemplative and less worn out. There is a serenity and calmness to this card that I initially did not understand. Looking at it for a few more minutes finally gave me and insight. What lies behind my mask is someone who does have depth, who does love considering the interconnectedness of things. If you only know me on a superficial level or fall for the burlesque show I often put on in public venues, you might miss this. It’s an aspect of myself I closely guard and only share with trusted friends.
That made me wonder why I feel the need to maintain this burlesque act, to wear this mask. As with most masks, it’s a protective device. In childhood I learned that being a “thinker of deep thoughts” is not conducive to a peaceful childhood. I got teased a lot (in face sometimes I still do). I had friends who used to mock me for using “dollar words” rather that speaking the common tongue. I was proud of my knowledge and intelligence (maybe vain and arrogant could apply as well) and used as many “big words” as I could. To reduce the teasing I became aggressive. If perceived mockery or bullying, I struck back quickly. This often created additional problems that I preferred to avoid. So I learned to become more of a joker, a verbal fan dancer. I distracted others from my more sensitive, contemplative side by acting like a somewhat outrageous, opinionated, and over the top character. That character is a part of who I am but it’s not all that I am, not by a long shot.
A friend recently commented that she has learned to accept that she is different from the majority and her definition of success might be very different from theirs. I am the same way. I realized a long time ago that I don’t need to find fulfillment from my job. I have many other avenues for personal satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment. What I need from a job is that it not be overly stressful, time consuming or aggravating. I need a job that doesn’t take away from my true vocation and spiritual path. It may be that they will dovetail nicely someday but if they don’t I’m okay with that because I have become comfortable with who I am as well as the masks I wear. This is not the only one but it’s the only one I’ll share right now.
Brilliant column. I enjoy your subtlity that is paradoxically out front and center for all of us to enjoy. Your thoughtfulness led to me thinking about my “mask.” I decided my sometimes outrageous playfulness comes from daring–“What the Hell? Why not?”–and boredom with the staus quo: “I don’t care what you had for dinner” –and the sad knowledge that if I delve to deeply into what is behind every mask, I will become mired in other people’s pain and troubles. I, therefore, try and strike a balance and approach serious things–my own and other people’s playfully. I am not meant to play in the dark corners, but to shine light and blow bubbles into them and invite one and all to please “Come out to play!”
I know what you mean Elinor (and thank you for the praise ;D) I once had a supervisor point out that I often stated I didn’t care about things when I clearly cared very deeply. It me realize that I try to shield myself from caring too deeply because then I can’t separate myself from other’s pain and sorrow. That way would lie madness so instead I put on my Bette Midler burlesque act. Most don’t look any deeper than that. Quite frankly my approach to most relationships in my life has been if you’re not willing to do the work you probably won’t enjoy knowing me anyway. I’m rather like Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty) in that respect. 😀