The masks we wear, no matter how glamorous, just get in the way of living life.
Someone recently asked me to define “spirituality” which places an Episcopal Priest rather on the spot. It took me a while to break the lump in my throat enough to speak my answer in this crowd of people assembled to discuss my most recent book. The lump in my throat was not about a lack of clarity regarding the answer. The lump in my throat was about a lack of willingness to be exposed – to take off my mask.
We all wear these masks, and some of us have collected a few. One for work. One for friends. One for lovers. One for people at church. One for those we seek to seduce and one for those whose seduction we crave. The more masks, the more exhaustion from playing so many roles.
It will be Christmas Day in a few short days. My to-do lists are almost completed. Christmas Day is always, for me, a day to recover from the exhaustion of preparing – the gifts, the mailings, the food, the events, the year-end campaign, the expectations of me and of others.
As I reflect on Christmas, I am aware that the story is one of unmasking. It takes a God, one characterized in scriptures and tradition before 0 AD as angry, distant, old, cranky, disappointed, litigious, arid, crusty, vengeful, jealous – a God much like me on my worst days – and it unmasks that God as tender, vulnerable, soft, brown, moist and even giggling with arms and feet waving around in the air like tentacles, seeking to grasp and touch and even caress.
As I looked out at the adoring audience, hanging on my every word the way guru-seekers tend to do, I was loathe to answer the question – the definition of spirituality. But they were not asking for THE definition. They were asking for MY definition. So, after appropriate disclaimers about “THE” and “MY” definitions I went ahead and spoke. “My definition of spirituality, I said, is a relentless engagement with truth.’”
Truth is not masks. Truth is exposure of what is real.
This Christmas my life is about to change. That is what happens to people who take off their masks. Even the ones we use for our mirrors.
Suddenly the cold, bracing air hits the moist, hot skin as the mask comes off. Suddenly the ability to see the world and myself are no longer limited by two, small holes. Suddenly people can read my face and see when I am lying even if only to myself. Suddenly what is soft is exposed to weather, to kiss, to shrapnel and to fist. But the alternative is worse.
For some reason, God wanted to be seen. God wanted to touch and be touched. God wanted to be in time. God wanted to connect without masks of God’s own making and without the masks fabricated by preachers.
Today, with this writing of the 1,900th Daily Sip and the 810,000th words of the collection, I can admit to having been raised by abusers – adicts – manipulators – mentally unwell humans who had sex and produced a child – me. Were they qualified to raise me? No. But here I am. And now, at 56, I am, this week, for the first time in my life, beginning the 12-step programs for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Parents (ACOA). I am terrified to take off my masks. I am terrified to burn them in a pile. I am terrified to admit that I keep making adult choices borne out of my traumatic childhood.
But if there was ever a season to admit to truth, I guess it is Christmas. How I hit-bottom. Why I hit-bottom is not for public consumption; but like so many before me, I am glad I did. When one hits-bottom, one awakens when the stunned stars circling one’s head wear off. Advent is about being awake. Christmas is about being exposed. And Epiphany will be about light in the darkness. A new life. And weekly ACOA meetings. And bad coffee. And good choices.
Merry Christmas to all; and to all a good light.