We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
In the first stanza of the poem above, Dunbar talks about people where a smile, a mask, as a way to hide their pain and suffering. As a way to please the world and live up to a social standard, all the while, they are broken inside.I know a lot of us resinate with poem, whether you have read it before or this is your first time reading it.
However, there are various types of masks that we wear, happiness being one of the two most common. The second most common, the mask that I have learned to wear since I was a child, the mask I am wearing now, is ANGER.
Remember that self work and self care that I spoke about in Quarantined Extrovert? Well, this mask -or rather the realization that I am even wearing the mask- was part of that self work.
In the midst of this quarantine, the spreading of the virus getting closer to my life, and remote teaching taking its toll after only 18 days, I have been so angry. I am angry during meetings, I am angry reading emails about children and their struggles. I am angry grading work, or rather not grading work because it’s not getting started or finished. I am angry whenever someone talks about Social Distancing or even when I THINK someone is about to mention coronavirus. IM FUCKING ANGRY. And at first, I honestly thought that people we just getting on my nerves or feeding into the media frenzy and stuff of the like. It wasn’t until two or three days ago that I’ve been EASILY angered, by things that I should have another emotion toward. I’d been getting angry at things I should fear; At things that should make feel sadness. In fact, this quick trigger anger was and is an alternative, an avoidance and defense mechanism.
See, from being really young, crying didn’t solve anything for me. In fact, I had been told as much. But anger did. When I was angry, I worked harder. When I was angry, I could pinpoint a target. On the court, when I got angry, I could use my body and aggression to score or to win. And I was praised. In school, I could use my anger to get people to leave me alone. And I was at peace.Because it doesn’t happen often, when I am angry, people stop and listen. Oh shit, she’s fired up, this must be good. Working, I can use anger to mask my other emotions. I can choose a situation to be upset about or even a person to blame to mask how I feel. This way, I don’t show my anger with children, it is a way for me to keep it together. Kids just assume I’m annoyed at something else or that I’m a little strict but they love me anyways lol.
Now…now that this virus is spreading to families and effecting my babies, relationships that I have worked so hard to form are cut short by social distancing and not being in school, and this freak of nature virus is causing so much chaos, pain and loss, I am angry. Well actually, I am wearing the mask of anger. In reality, under that mask, I want to cry most of the time. While reading emails about my babies, or listening to an updated news broadcast or national decision. I want to scream when my mom talks about how much she worries about me, because I worry about HER! I feel helpless. I feel confused. I feel overwhelmed. But mostly, I am scared. Scared that if I let myself feel any one of those emotions besides anger, I won’t be able to keep it together. Scared that if I cry as much as I want to, I will worry the very people that I am worried about. Scared that if someone I love gets sick or passes, I wont have a quick bounce back from it.
Unfortunately, I’ve gone a long time choosing to be a bitch rather than show how I really feel. being a bitch has moved me forward. Otherwise, I get stuck. So now the task is, how to be there for myself, feeling whatever feelings when they need to be felt, and not get stuck. Maybe you feel the same. Are you the “always happy” mask wearer? The “shut everyone out” mask wearer? The “I am strong for everyone” mask wearer? Take some time to think about that, and then take more time to feel how you truly need to feel.
To close out, my principal said something great. She said
“You don’t always have to give up so much of yourself to support others. It’s like the whole airplane oxygen mask thing; If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s hard for you to be here for others.”
The hard part is figuring out a way, especially during this time, to recondition my brain to do that.
That’s all I really have to say. This is my story, this is my journey.
Peace,Love, and All the things!