It is strange, but something I just wrote in response to a comment got me to thinking…
About masks, and the many times in our lives we wear them, both physically and psychologically. For nearly all of us, that wearing starts at a young age. It could be when we pretended to be good-or bad, in order to gain something that we might desire. Or it could be when we wanted to hide our pain when our schoolmates teased us.
Or when we grew older and went out on our own, when we searched for employment and faced the stranger across the desk. We tried so hard to “put on a proper image”, when in truth, all we wanted to do was shout at them that we were deserving of that job. We sat there, wanting to scream that just because we weren’t wearing a popular style, our skin was the wrong color, we didn’t “talk right”, or didn’t “fit” their image of acceptability, didn’t mean we weren’t worthy.
What about the times when we hid our anger, jealousy, resentment, frustration, disappointment or whatever other emotion due to a situation, occasion, location or even the person we were with?
Masks, can be physical, as in a play, or Halloween, or for a ceremony. They can also be emotional, as when we seek to portray one emotion-or none at all-when we are feeling something else. The bottom line is that masks are meant to hide who we truly are, to allow us, for the time that we are wearing them, to present ourselves as something we are not. But every mask is a deceiver, whether physical or emotional, they are a misrepresentation of the truth. In short-a lie.
The greatest mask we ever wear, though, is the one many of us present ourselves with-how we perceive ourselves. Those masks, depending on what type they are, can have lifelong effects on us.
Many of those masks are formed and fashioned by outside forces, such as spending a lifetime being told we were plain, ugly, too fat, too thin, too lacking in intelligence or too possessing of it-as in the know it all-to stand being around, that we were inconsequential, worthless, useless, and much more.
These all-when presented consistently by enough people for enough time, can actually cause many of us to come to believe the mask those things form to be a representation of our true selves. We actually come to believe the “face” of that “mask” so fully that we end up holding ourselves back. We believe that it would do us little good to be other than what seemed to be the commonly held view of who and what we are. That belief can even, in some cases, drive some of us to drugs, alcohol, depression and even suicide, simply as a result of our feelings of non-worth.
Then there are the masks that we ourselves form. Perhaps it is in how we view our physical appearance, or our talents or lack of them. It could be in how we view our intelligence, when we may not learn as quickly or retain information as well, or for a myriad of other reasons. All of these thoughts and concepts influence how we view ourselves when we look in the mirror.
Whether the mask be one of arrogance or lack of self image, or a smile that masks evil, cunning, a lie, a false tear, or even false pain displayed merely to gain sympathy and attention, they are all masks and all of them, sooner or later, slip.
None should know that better than writers. For they pursue a craft in which they literally “slip into” the characters that they are writing about in order to bring them to life. Often though, in the very doing of that, they reveal far more of themselves than they might think.
A good writer must be able to envision the actions, characteristics, attitudes and concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, realistically in the character or characters that they are writing about, to bring them to life in the reader’s mind. This means that the writer must first know at least enough of those things within themselves to have a basic understanding of them. This is necessary, if the writer is to write descriptions of those things compellingly enough to make a stranger who reads their words actually be able to picture, and feel, those things.
After all, it would be rather difficult to adequately describe and compare the sweetness of something to honey or sugar, if the one doing the describing had never tasted either personally.
Which makes me wonders about something. I wonder how many writers, in going back during the editing process, or the final reading, find that they had betrayed more of their true selves than they had thought or perhaps even intended. In one of my other blogs I mentioned this.
Writers, be they good or mediocre, have no choice in that they release a part of themselves in the words they write. How the writer views themselves, what emotional state they might be in, or even outside influences can often have direct bearing on, or affect, what occurs at various places in the writer’s work.
For instance, say a writer was in an upbeat, inspired mood, but was writing a murder mystery. More than likely, that would be when they would write parts in which things went for the better, such as perhaps a break in the case.
But conversely, if the writer was having a bad day, or was angered, depressed, frustrated, or even outright murderously enraged, those emotions would translate to the characters through acts of malice, violence or even murder. The very intensity of the negative things that happened to the characters could even be a clear indication of the knife edge that the writer themselves might be walking between light and dark.
If a writer, after reading what they had written, goes to a mirror and looks into their own eyes…
I wonder-would they perhaps see a stranger they never knew lived within themselves peering out at them, thus causing their mask to slip, and their self deception to reveal itself?
The star light cannot be seen against a sunlit sky, only against the dark does its light become visible, and likewise the darkness of the drop off to a deep chasm cannot be seen in the dark, only in the light. Light and dark are inter-dependent upon each other…
And in us.
Just a little something for any who should chance to read this, and who might by chance be a writer, to think about. Especially if they consider themselves to be reasonably good of heart and intention-for they must also possess at least a trace of darkness in order for that light to shine its brightest.
Just a little something to think about in those odd and rare moments of your busy lives. What mask, oh you translators of the muse’s whispers, when you look honestly into your own eyes in a mirror, do you see…
Or could there, mayhaps, even be more than one?
When you, dear writer, look into the eyes in the mirror, after reading something you have written, which seemed out of what you have always perceived your character to be…
Are your sure it will be YOUR eyes looking back?
MARANTHA D. JENELLE