For the first time in nearly 18 months, I felt truly grateful to be wearing a mask.
This was not because I was in a large crowd, visiting the COVID floor of a hospital, or located somewhere where my risk of contraction might have been dangerously high. Nor was this because I tested positive and was grateful that I had not potentially infected others.
For the past 18 months, I have bemoaned the fact that I have to wear a mask in public because of the social distance it creates. I love meeting people and I struggle with the separation I feel from others. But two weeks ago, as I was sitting in a Yom Kippur service in Buffalo, NY, I was grateful for my mask. Instead of restricting me, my bland white covering allowed me the freedom to cry in public, without inhibition or self-consciousness, and without attracting the unwanted attention of strangers. I felt free to release months of bottled-up sadness, and I felt grateful.
Now the rest of this note might be about why I was crying… the source of my sadness… but in this case, that is not the point. Instead, I want to explore the shift in my relationship with my mask, which was not insignificant.
I was recently listening to a teaching from Abraham and Esther Hicks (Law of Attraction folks if you do not recognize the names). This teaching focused on the importance of contrast (the state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association). It is when we notice contrast, they teach, that we open a portal to growth. The contrast opens the portal, but it does not guarantee our growth as it is ‘upon us’ to recognize that the door to a growth moment has opened and have the courage and willingness to walk through it.
Many times we don’t. Contrast in decorating or art is magical. Imagine looking at a blank white canvas. Then imagine standing there as the artist herself, in real-time, splatters blood-red paint on it. Your senses could not help but be activated by the contrast. You might feel confused or disturbed and decide to walk away. Or you might feel curious and decide to observe… wonder… and allow yourself to be altered in some way by the experience.
This is the power of contrast.
When we choose to notice it and sit with it, we can be transformed by it.
Sitting safely behind the protection of my mask, I experienced a powerful and full-spectrum emotional journey that would not have been possible without it, and I was reminded that any judgement of something as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is narrow and limiting.
This month on the podcast and on our social media, we will be exploring masks. Not the ones that have recently become ubiquitous in our public areas, but the invisible ones we have been wearing for a long time.
Perhaps you wear the mask of the perfectionist, the pleaser, the conflict avoider, the infallible leader, the superhero parent, or the one who ‘has it all together.’ Maybe you are wearing one of these masks and find it exhausting. Maybe you have been wearing one of these masks so long, you have forgotten that you have it on. Maybe you are wondering what you and others would find if you took it off. Maybe you wish you could take it off and have no idea how. Alternatively, maybe there are masks you wish you could wear because you would like to experiment with another way of showing up.
This is what we are exploring on the Podcast in October.
- On October 6th, Susan Sandler shares how she came to be wearing an invisible mask and explores with me: How we acquire these masks, how we can know if we have one on, and how to begin removing it.
- On October 13, Patricia Omaqui and Amy Steindler explore the role of masks in leadership: How they help and how they hinder positive impact.
- On October 20th, Paulette Rigo reveals the long-term impact of wearing a mask for decades just to please someone she loved.
- And on October 27th, Matt Mead joins us to discuss the importance of having eyes that seek to see another beyond the mask.
And we provide this lineup of content to offer contrast… to open the portal to growth. Contrast can be invigorating as in the case of surprise, and it can be a bit unnerving when it raises our awareness of things that can create some discomfort. But if you know us well, you know that Courage to be Curious is ALL ABOUT getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Contrast and discomfort are our portals to growth. We invite you to grow with us.