As part of my studies when I was in school, I looked at older cultural relationships with the unknown and spiritual world. One common theme among all the cultures I studied (which ran the gamut from early North America and Europe to the San people), was the use of masks. Some cultures made masks of clay, others of wood and still others used forms of paint to build masks upon the person’s face.
Typically these masks represented a being or type of goddess/God, but sometimes the masks were designed as tools to work with the known or unseen. If the mask was used as a tool it might be designed to scare away evil beings, or perhaps help tie souls together again. Always, regardless of the function, the masks hide the person’s face and to some degree his/her personality as well.
Over the course of my studies and continued research I have collected numerous images or copies of these masks and many have adorned my walls at various times. Even if you don’t believe in the power some ascribe to the masks, there is something magical about them and the way they look. I used to rotate out my “weather” masks. When I wished for cooler rain I’d bring out the appropriate masks, not because I necessarily thought they would make it rain, but rather because they suited my mood. (In all my research I’ve personally never seen a mask bring about a shift in weather or fortune; typically there is a ceremony or dance associated with the mask’s intention.).
As some of you know this has been a rather trying month for me with lots of changes and upheaval taking place. These aren’t the every day upheavals either and there have been a few of them that have left me wondering if I had reached the bottom of a pit. (I rather suspect the bottom of any out is what we make it to be and of course there is a real possibility that if one isn’t careful the pit is in fact bottomless.)
Most people though wouldn’t know about the upheavals or changes just by looking at me because I too wear a mask. My mask gives me strength and confidence when both are flagging. My mask makes me look less vulnerable to outsiders. My mask is meant to scare away lupus while insisting that people do not pity me. So far the scaring off of lupus has been an utter failure; the look has worked at keeping people’s concern and such st bay.
The thing with wearing my “scare lupus” or “make lupus fear me” mask is that it comes with a price tag. A price tag that I have often failed to check before donning my mask. You see in my research I learned that in order to tap into whatever power it is that the mask wearer seeks, s/he must give something up in return. In my case it’s energy and positive feelings. All too often I’ve reached for my mask and not stopped to consider the price of wearing it.
In some cultures when the mask wearer does not hesitate to continually give up a small piece of him/herself that person is deemed to be corrupt by the community. You see when you continue to give up or give away something in return for a power it means that the power has corrupted you or at least blurred your vision and judgment. Somewhere along the lines I took up my battle with lupus while wearing a mask that promised to keep the illness at bay. I started wearing the mask in the belief that if I looked strong enough a lupus flare could be avoided. For the record taking care of one’s self and working with one’s medical team is what helps avoid flares.
It almost came to the point where I don’t know what I looked like before the mask because it had become such a habit. But the mask hasn’t helped avoid the flares and I’m tired of being tired and looking strong when I feel anything but that. I’m tired of paying an unnecessary price and so I’ve been working at not putting on my mask all the time, waiting until the mood hits me to wear it. And I’ve discovered that by letting go of or at least loosening my tight grip on needing to be so tough has given me renewed energy and opened up my eyes to other opportunities.
I still have my mask for when I want it to feel strong or secure, but I don’t need it to be strong. I am strong. I am a lupus warrior, and these days I even smile!