Saturday, October 28, 2017

Halloween masks

"You wear a mask for so long, you can easily forget who you were beneath it." – Alan Moore

Apollo, Halloween 2017 / Cindy La Ferle

I've always loved how Halloween inspires us to play dress-up. If only for one night, the holiday gives us permission to drop the dull disguise of conformity and assume a new identity. 

For wardrobe junkies like me, Halloween is reason enough to hoard clothing that should have been donated to charity ages ago. In addition to an attic crammed with costumes, a steamer trunk in my living room holds dozens of crazy hats I’ve collected over the years -- everything from feathered witch hats to horned Viking helmets. Anyone who visits our house near Halloween is encouraged to wear one. 

While costumes bring out the kid in everyone, I believe that choosing what to wear goes even deeper.

For little ones, Halloween costumes provide a safe opportunity to explore the big question: What do I want to be when I grow up? Back in the ‘60s, some of my pals dressed up as secret agents, firefighters, police officers, doctors, and nurses. Others wore the disguise of a favorite superhero – Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman. Our costumes not only reflected our creativity (or the fact that one of our parents owned a sewing machine) but also revealed our secret aspirations.

As we grow older – if we do it right – we learn that the real gift of aging is uncovering the person we are beneath the various roles and identities we’ve worn throughout our youth. Whether we’re facing retirement, an empty nest, a health crisis, or a change in marital status, maturity poses another question: Who am I -- now that my roles and the dreams of my youth have changed?  

Exchanging a carefully crafted self-image for an authentic self takes work – and a lot of courage. It requires dropping all pretentions. You have to stop hiding behind professional titles, family roles, political labels, and designer logos. And you must surrender the need to appear right or brilliant or perfect all the time. The good news, as author Anne Lamott wrote, is that once you let people see who you really are, even at your worst, “you don’t have to put on the mask as much.” ~CL

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