Monday, June 1, 2009

Taking The Mask Off

We all wear masks at different times in our life. These masks are to protect us from the things we perceive that others may judge us by, or somehow make us unacceptable in others eyes, or protect us from pain, or we put them on to make others comfortable around us. There are also other reasons we put our masks on but these are the reasons that speak the loudest to me. I am in a season of life where I have flung my mask off and I never want to wear it again. Its scary. Its hard. It makes me feel vulnerable. I have found the more real I am with those around me they either open up to me and understand or they move away from me. I spent my entire life putting things under the rug and wearing a mask. Trying to be perfect in others eyes. Trying to be everything to everyone. Making other feel comfortable even when I was not. The mask also acted as a shield-shielding others from seeing all of the guilt and shame I carried around on the scarlet cord that invisibly sat firmly around my neck. I think my mind got so tired and the rug got so full that my mind and body finally had enough and that is when I had my first panic attack. I have come a long way since that day in January 2007.

Part of taking off my mask is that I have learned its ok to be real with others. Its ok to say no. Its important for me to understand that I am not responsible for other people's choices or behaviours. I have also learned how to speak up when I am uncomfortable or when I feel that something is not right. That is huge for me.

I realized how far I have come today when we were at Trader Joe's (I love Trader Joe's). One of my favorite items there is the TJ French Roast coffee. I had placed a full container of beans inside the coffee grinder and pushed the button anticipating the smell of fresh coffee beans wafting up to my nose. I noticed the grinder sounded different. I looked in the container and it only had a few inches of coffee inside then I opened the lid to the grinder and using the lid for the container I pushed some of the beans down a little more. I pushed the start button again...nothing but a whirring noise. I found a woman who was pushing a cart of boxes and told her of the dilemma, as she wiped the sweat from her forehead with her hand she said she would be right over to help me. She was over in my aisle within a minute or so. She immediately opened the grinder lid and starting pushing the beans down with her hands. Now I will tell you I am not a germ a phob but I am a firm believer in hand washing or at least use gloves if you are touching someones food (or coffee grinds). She continued to dig her hands around and push the grinds down. I knew in that moment I did not want those coffee grinds any more. I felt myself starting to get uncomfortable. I didn't want to offend her. I spoke up and said, "I appreciate your help but I will just grab another container of coffee beans and use the other grinder-no worries". She said she had it under control and continued to put her hands in the grinder and continued grinding the beans slowly for me. I felt even more uncomfortable and for a moment I thought I would just let her do it and pretend to take the container she gave me and then when she left the aisle I would put that one on the counter and get a fresh container and use the other grinder that was working. I quickly decided that would not be a good option-someone may pick it up and buy it. I knew I needed to "confront" her. I gently touched her arm and said, "I don't mean to be rude but I would prefer a new container of beans, you have put your hands inside the grinder and the beans and while I am sure your hands are clean, I would feel better if I could please get a new container". Her face turned red and she continued moving the beans in the grinder and said, "well my hands are clean I just got back from lunch". I said, "I am sure they are clean but really I want a new container and I will just use this other grinder, I appreciate your help though". She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders and I grabbed another container of beans and used the other grinder. She finished grinding the beans and took the container with her. I finished grinding and went over to tell Doug about our exchange and he said he was proud of me! He knows this was huge for me.

I realized that I would have never done that before. I would have felt obligated to take the coffee beans that she had her hands all over or I would have waited till she was gone and changed it out. I would have put my mask on to make her comfortable. I think you can find a balance of confronting someone or even taking off your mask without being rude. I know I made her uncomfortable because the redness in her face gave it away. My intention was not to embarrass her but to state the truth as it was. Its hard to find the balance sometimes but when you do, oh it feels so good. It also feels good to take off my mask!


  1. I commend you on taking off your mask and handling this so well.

  2. thank you Trisha :) it is not always easy-its one day at a time and 1 situation at a time


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