Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Masks

Disclaimer:  Once again this is an attempt to organize some personal thoughts...skip ahead if you are feeling weary.

A few days ago I witnessed an interesting event when I went to see Sister Beck, the General Relief Society President, speak.  When she opened up the floor for questions, in front of thousands of women, a woman stood up to ask a pointed, uncomfortable question that left several women literally squirming in their seats.  There was no clear-cut answer that could have been given.  It left Sister Beck in a catch 22.  No matter how she would have answered the question, she would have been in trouble with someone somewhere.  Gracefully and graciously, she later answered what I imagine was the true issue behind it all in a round-about and loving way. 

I chuckled to myself as I imagined what the conversation would be going on inside of every car leaving the parking lot once that meeting was over.

When I got home I told Dennis what happened.  I got another laugh as I watched him listen with wide eyes, his mouth dropped to the floor. 

Although yes, it was probably inappropriate, especially considering the public setting, I felt sorry for her.  But it was more than an inappropriate question, it was a desperate plea to be validated and heard- and I think Sister Beck saw that. 

I often see reflections of myself in varying shades in the most unexpected places, from this woman's plea to be heard despite her off-colored platform, to the woman standing on the corner with the sign begging for money.  There is so much that that we have in common that connects us regardless of our walk in life.  When we visited the Natural History Museum in Washington D.C., there was an exhibit that showed the similarity in DNA makeup between humans and other living things.   Did you know that humans and bananas are 50% similar in their DNA?  Just as we are 98% similar to chimpanzees in our genetic makeup, it's that mere 2% which takes us from primates to literal children of God.  What separates me from the man living on the street, hearing voices in his head, is even less. 

I felt the woman's pain at that meeting.  I imagine what plagues her is what plagues millions of women throughout the world- and that's an unfulfilled need to be validated and heard.  Facebook, blogging and texting become desperate attempts to gain reassurance that they are in fact being heard by someone somewhere.  I've noticed that the days I feel the loneliest are the days I spend the most time on the internet in an attempt to fill some kind of void.

As I was trying out all of the features on photoshop (again), I played around with one of my images experimenting with the touch-up effects.  The effects of the wrinkle removal, teeth whitening, lipstick, hair highlights, eye brightening, and even thinning effect (I instantly lost about 20 pounds with the click of a button) was startling. 

A few months ago, we had a Relief Society meeting with an activity about the masks we wear, and we all wear them.  These masks are worn for a variety of reasons, mostly for self-preservation.  But they are what prevent us from connecting with each other and remembering how little really separates us.  I often see other people's beautiful and flawless "masks" and think we are worlds apart.  As I looked at my photoshopped image, I thought, "But I like the lines around my eyes.  My children gave those to me!  I like that little triangle of freckles on the edge of my mouth- I've had it since I was a kid.  I wouldn't feel like myself without it."  Perhaps sometimes we feel like what we need is the photoshopped effects of image #2 to be worthy of being heard of validated (yes, I realize the photoshopping is WAY overdone and looks a little creepy actually).
After some much-appreciated, feedback from an honest friend, I realized that I do wear masks, many of them without my realizing it.  The Rita without the mask has wrinkles, stretch marks, a quick temper, a mind that thinks too deep for it's own good, an obsessive/compulsive love for cleanliness and organization, a never-ending concern that I may have offended or hurt someone's feelings,  and so many other things, both lovely and not-so-lovely. 

Surprisingly, I've found that the most treasured interactions I have with others are when all masks are off and I allow myself to be seen as I truly am with all pretences aside.  The door for judgement is left wide open and I am left feeling terribly vulnerable.   What's even more surprising is how often that vulnerability is met with a sigh of relief by the person with whom I've just been so shamelessly candid as they realize that they are not alone- be it in their deep dark secret or insecurities.  A key is turned and we finally, truly connect.

 That's one of many magical and beautiful thing about families.  For mothers, there are no masks with our children, no matter how hard we try to tighten the strings to keep that mask in place.  They've seen me at my very best and at my very worst, and to them, I am still mother.



4 comments:

Percy said...

profound insights here! you'll have to tell me what the lady asked over the phone :)

Stephanie said...

Rita, to be totally honest I don't like your photoshopped picture. It doesn't look like my friend Rita. I love reading your insights and so often find that I easily relate to how you are feeling. Thank you for putting them out here for me (and others) to read.

Cher said...

that does make me curious what she asked, although i know that wasn't your point. but do you think she just asked it for attention or because she really wanted to know the answer?
another great post.

AllisonK said...

Such a lovely post! Your insights are wonderful. However I'm with Percy, what did she ask?