“Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed.”
Reeling from a pandemic and its effect on our society, economy and personal lives, we are all living in strange days…indeed. While some remain untouched in their glass houses, most of us will not come out of this unscathed. With an unemployment rate that rivals the Great Depression, our country is in the midst of a new kind of depression. It’s a virus of not only body, but hearts and souls are also becoming sick. Worry, stress and anxiety can overtake us as we navigate isolation, job loss and fear of the future.
Now, we wear masks when we venture out in public. The masks prevent the spread of the virus between our bodies but an important human connection is being interrupted. I find myself smiling under my mask yet no one can see it. I cannot see the facial cues from others…are you a threat or a friend? “Are you smiling under your mask?”, I wonder as I observe the changing landscape of human interaction. After my job loss, I ventured to my old office to pick up my ‘stuff’ and say goodbye to the people I spent the larger part of fifteen years working beside. We all wore our masks and there were no goodbye hugs. I could see their eyes but this didn’t tell me much. There were no tears and I was left with an odd numb feeling. I have been on the other side of this situation. I was the survivor and now, I am the loser. I know they felt a sense of relief that they were on the ‘right’ side of the situation (better you than me). I felt immeasurably smaller and my role in the world suddenly diminished. A younger person who I trained now occupies my ‘space’ there.
The ‘mask’ I wore in that job role has fallen away. My ego is bruised and I am angry and hurt. The irony is that I didn’t want to be there any longer but couldn’t seem to dislodge myself from the perception that I ‘needed’ the money. I know it’s right for me and it will allow me to attempt to make a living at teaching Yoga. I guess I wanted to choose the time and place of my exit but that wasn’t what the universe planned. I am being ‘paid’ to leave so it couldn’t be more ‘ideal’. I will do without A LOT of material things and I will be living on a strict budget. We all know that those material things don’t make us happier yet the fear of losing the ability to buy stuff is real. In reality, we are being conditioned to believe that we need all this ‘stuff’ to be happy and acceptable to society.
I keep hoping that the isolation…the quiet places we find when we are alone will help us to lift the masks that hide our true selves. We are not the roles we play at work, we are not our possessions and we are not the ‘identity’ that we have built around all the stuff we accumulate. However, many people are going to go right back to identifying with all the junk clouding the perception of the truth. They will even somehow believe that if they are the ‘lucky’ ones who still have a job that this makes them superior and more deserving than those of us who were freed from those chains. We need to wake up and not be afraid to have fewer possessions. Many in the spiritual community feel this is the time to wake up but truthfully, I don’t believe most of us will. Those superior people still buying up toilet paper and disinfectant and clinging desperately to their identity will look down on those who cannot or choose not to continue to consume everything in sight like locusts.
Even when literal masks can come off, many will still have their metaphoric mask firmly in place. They will not see that fear rules every aspect of their lives. They will not see their true potential and will continue to believe that they are what they can buy or where they stand in the ‘pecking order’ of the workplace.
While walking with my grandson in the park, we saw a man sitting by the pond. Sam pointed to him and whispered, “Nay Nay, does he have the virus?”. I had no other answer than, “Sam, we just don’t know”.
We don’t know do we? Who has the virus? Who will come out of this alive or ‘on top’? Who will wake up? Who will remain asleep? If enough people take off their masks, can we make the world a better place?
I don’t know. Strange Days Indeed.
A full-time Yoga teacher
Taking the Long Road Home
One thought on “The Metaphor of The Mask”
On spot, as always. Society has decided to base a ‘person’s worth’ to their financial standing. The more money you make, the more you can buy, therefore you are ‘successful’. If you don’t make enough, or own ‘stuff’, you are a failure. You are considered a liability to society, someone that ‘takes’ without bringing anything to the ‘table’. This can weigh heavily on a person, actually detracting them from really reaching their full potential. Sure, you need to make money to survive in the way the ‘system’ is designed. Resources are limited for those unable to, or ‘unwilling’ to buy into the idea of success. But yet, there seems to be unlimited resources for those that do. People with money can obtain MORE money by just requesting. Those without money are shunned and not given an opportunity to succeed because they obviously haven’t worked hard enough. If one thing this situation with the virus should teach us, it’s that ‘success’ can all be taken away in a matter of minutes. All of a sudden, you become one of ‘the takers’. Relying on the the kindness of others, some of which would have been considered’ unsuccessful’ just a few months ago. Essential workers recently shunned as ‘undeserving’ because they perform ‘menial task’, considered as lazy or burdens on society are now our ‘hero’s’! Paramount to our survival as individuals as well as society as a whole. The lowly, lazy Stock-boy that needed to work harder and find a better job to be successful, is now considered an intricate part of our survival. Their real worth is suddenly being realized. We ALL bring something to the table, even if that ‘something’ wasn’t considered successful previously. A person’s worth is more than what they make or own, it’s the value they bring to our lives. Hopefully this lesson will be etched into our memories, so we won’t judge people and tie their ‘worth’ to their finances. We’re all successful in our own way.