Nope, this isn’t a Photoshop / photo-editing post. Catchy title though, right? No, it’s about what we all do in our online social profiles and presence and content. Including me. Yes, dear reader, even this is but one of many layers; a mask, perhaps at times; a shade of one of many colors that comprise the entirety of this person that is me.
You all know the quote from the original Shrek. He’s got layers, like an onion. Not like a parfait. Or a cake. An onion. Because he’s smelly and slightly bitter. Turns out, this analogy works quite well for a human, too. I mean sure, some of us are less bitter than others — you’ve got your sweet Vidalia onions too. But the point is that you don’t get to see the inner layers until you’ve peeled away or broken through the other layers.
Trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, cuts us deep, often piercing right through nearly all of those layers at once. Which is why it brings out the worst and the best in people, sometimes even both simultaneously. Yet, as any living organism will do, we try to heal ourselves as rapidly as possible. Often that means masking some of the more ugly scars or unsightly layers with something that’s not quite pure, not quite “genuine grade-A self”. Over time, eventually, hopefully, those impostor layers get replaced by what truly belongs there, within and about us as a person, and we, in colloquial terms, “become whole”.
Of course, the analogy doesn’t hold up completely at that point. When you lose a spouse, a child, or someone who meant the world to you in some similar way, you’re never really “whole” again, because that person had become a part of you. Their layers had intermingled with yours; you had become this sort of freakish hybrid double-onion that doesn’t really exist in nature. (Or maybe it does; I’m not National Geographic.) So it’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s alright.
All the world’s indeed a stageRush, Limelight
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage
We all put on a mask sometimes, intentionally or otherwise. To get us through the day, the week; to hide the fact that we can’t stand one more tantrum or meltdown from a cranky 2 year old; to pretend that we’re “doing fine” when our heart wants to scream out in pain. This is especially true in grief, where the world’s expectation is that you “must live on” and “honor the memory” of your lost loved one.
But what if the mask’s purpose were reversed? What if the mask was a facade of grief, and the face behind it was secretly, surprisingly, despite the odds and expectations, actually thriving? No, surely this does not happen. Does it?
As a literary device, a ‘shade’ is often a ghost or spectre. It represents a lost remnant of a person, a soul that has not found rest, or that has been called back from the grave against its will. Apt, I should say, for a griever to consider. We often try to “bring back” our loved one in some form, be it a memorial service, a shrine, a re-living of their favorite activity or adventure. But these are not “the real” him/her, not even close.
Luminous beings are we! Not this.. crude matter.Yoda, Empire Strikes Back
We are, indeed, an amalgamation of so many colors and hues, of light and dark. You see the bright spots, most often, on social media; the “highlight reel”, the colors that we want others to see the most. Not the darker, more mysterious, less appealing colors of our personal rainbow. Those, we hold close to the vest, only willing to let them show under the utmost trust and confidence.
Occasionally, they slip out, unintentionally. They fly off with a spark and we’re left to contrive some socially acceptable explanation, some attempt to quell the tide of contempt that it brought upon us, as if everyone else has never had those same dark inscrutable colors escape from their own personal paint palette. Oh trust me, they have.
What’s your point?
Touché. I suppose I needed to fill some space, and had thoughts swirling around my head. Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes and we try to do better. Often we fail. But sometimes — oh rare but glorious sometimes — we succeed. ❤