Yesterday I had my regular fortnightly meeting with my parole officer, job services provider.
Trouble was, I completely forgot about it.
I’d made myself a sensational lunch, watched WestWorld (OMG! Bernard!) and after faffing about in the kitchen stacking dishes, I made a coffee, grabbed a couple of Tim Tams and flopped back on to the couch. Without a care in the world, I flipped open my iPad. There it was: Appt 3:30pm, staring up at me from the screen.
I looked at the time, 3:17pm.
I sprang into action, luckily I had trackied up from the waist down, so I ripped my pj tee off, put my bra on, grabbed a fresh tee, ran a brush through my hair, slammed my coffee down in four gulps, washed my face, brushed my teeth and grabbed my keys.
I was only five minutes late!
My usual consultant wasn’t there, so I met with Jade and we quickly checked the boxes of my still fruitless job search, had a brief chat, she mentioned a role with their company that might suit me, flicked me the link and I was on my way. I told her I’d apply for the job, devoid of hope.
As I drove home, I thought to myself, I was pretty “on” just then, making light of my fruitless job search, giving Jade the impression I was totally fine, agreeing with her patter about peaks and valleys in the search, and I realised, I’d taken an almost unconscious choice to slip behind a mask. Just smile, be funny, get in and out, fast.
I do that, I guess you could say I perform to keep myself safe. People like resilient, witty, joke cracking Annette, she’s inspiring, she’s robust and resilient, she’s coping so beautifully that people forget how long she’s been struggling.
That Annette is me, but sometimes the twinkle in the patter doesn’t quite reach my eyes.
I was glad that I noticed that I’d slipped behind a mask.
It reminded me that I don’t want to do that, and that I don’t have to do it either.
I’m not saying that every encounter I have should be a detailed examination of my emotional and mental state, far from it, but I don’t need to sugar coat the realities either.
Whatever you make of it, I’ve felt a bit off over the viciousness of the recent US election campaign, and as I watched the results come in, I was thunderstruck at what I was seeing. We now have a Jekyl & Hyde tweeting, misogynistic, flame throwing, applause loving, utterly unprepared to lead a nation, former TV celebrity/business mogul with white supremacist advisors preparing to take the helm of the United States.
And people are so cranky about how long (hello, it’s been six days) people are taking to “get over it”.
Maybe I’m not the only one feeling the pressure to slip behind a mask, to present a facade to the world.
Do you find yourself slipping behind a mask in certain situations? Around particular people?
It’s awful isn’t it – the feeling that we can’t simply be ourselves?
Some days I have my head held high, I feel good, and some days I’m a bit wobbly, but both are okay.
Both are human.
On the days when I’m wobbly, I reach for my iPhone and my newly created Positive Vibes playlist. I listened to it on the way to my op shop shift this morning, singing along and letting the upbeat synth and 80s harmonica solos work their magic.
Perhaps that’s why when the conversation in the break room turned to youth homelessness and generational welfare and how hard it is to push back against a wall of institutionalised red tape or job seeking inertia, I kept my mask off, and told the truth about how it feels some days, even when you’re resilient and determined, to hang tough and keep hoping. It’s not a walk in the park, and I can’t imagine what people with less in their emotional tanks go through.
I can now add “cried at the op shop lunch table” to my long list of odd places I’ve wept.
And do you know what? Not only did I honour myself by remaining unmasked, I gave my workmates the opportunity to hear my truth, to see me as I really am, and in return, I got to see their compassion and concern in a new light. And I felt better for it, immediately.
Now, more than ever, I think we need to find the space and grace to bear witness to each other’s real, in the moment, I’m not finished processing this just yet, selves.
Masks off, team.
It feels so much better to be, and see, genuine.
My no. 1 suggestion for your positivity playlist:
Nothing’s gonna stop us, nothing’s gonna stop us now…..