The dance was done in a mime costume complete with a white, expressionless mask covering my face. Audience members were dependent upon my movements to tell the story of “The Sound of Silence.” The music had words, but I was depicting someone who felt safer expressing those words only behind a mask.
At the conclusion of the piece I moved backstage, removed the mask, ran my fingers through my hair and said, “Ahh, now that’s better. It’s tough working behind a mask.” Other troupe members nodded in agreement.
There is a variety of conditions that make mask wearing difficult, on or off stage. Peripheral vision is diminished. One can only see what is right in front of them. Obstructed vision limits perception of personal space. That limitation can impair balance and requires the wearer to proceed with great care in order to avoid injury. The amount of energy needed to compensate for these conditions is high. Using energy in this way can quickly lead to exhaustion. Despite the drawbacks, however, masks can represent/provide something, sometimes, that most (like the little mime) crave – safety.
In the months since that performance, I have become aware of how many times I choose to subject myself to the tiresome endeavor of being in disguise. It is true enough that often I do not present my authentic self for fear of rejection or disapproval. Possibly this is due to lessons I learned as a child, or memories ingrained as I have danced with experience over the past six decades.
As I grow older, I realize the closer I walk with God, the more I find deep peace in His healing truth that He accepts me just as I am. No mask required. This assurance sustains me when I am unable to extricate myself from situations where I feel I must be silent and safe, regardless of potential cost.
Personally, I prefer never to feel restricted or unbalanced. I do not consciously volunteer for the expense of serious energy-depletion. When I do find myself in those situations, however, I can rely on fellowship with the One who always welcomes me with acceptance and love, without pretenses. This, I think, is part of the peace He promises that passes all human understanding. I look forward to, and am grateful for, the times when I sit down with my Heavenly Father, sigh in relief, remove the mask and say, “Ahh, now that’s better.”
Copyright January 2017
Laura L. Padgett
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