Over the years I have been a chef, a spy, a Greek goddess, various witches, Grandmother Janou, a nurse, a mermaid, Daisy Buchanan, a butterfly, and a fortune teller.
These are not career changes I have made, but rather some of my Halloween costumes as an adult. One year my daughter accused me of “excessive costuming” because I wore one costume to work, but changed into a second for handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. The comical part of her accusation is that she had two costumes that year also: one for work and one for bowling! Like mother, like daughter.
I greatly appreciate the households that go wild with Halloween decorations. Friends and I recently stopped to admire the cleverness of several spooky yards and noticed how much enjoyment other people were getting from these displays, too.
Some people like to create creepy party food, others freak themselves out at Haunted Houses or thriller movies. A challenging corn maze, picking out pumpkins, and going on hayrack rides brings fall satisfaction to many people, but for me, Halloween is all about the costumes!
My grandchildren are excitedly planning their Halloween costumes. The boys will be a ball player and a dinosaur. The girls have chosen to be William Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, and a ballerina. I have been given glimpses of their costumes via Facetime calls and the delight in their costumed faces makes me happy. I am happy they derive satisfaction in fantasy, and that they use their imaginations to become the characters of the costumes they are wearing.
The masks we frequently wear as adults are more for survival than for fun. A mask of false bravado is put on for days when we have to do something that scares the wits out of us.
Is the mask to make other people think we are brave or is it a way to bolster our own courage? By putting on a suit of armor do we feel more capable of attacking the tough challenges in a day? Do we wear parts of a costume daily to keep us going when times are hard?
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I have bracelets and necklaces inscribed with inspirational words reminding me that “I am stronger than I believe,” I have friends whom I can count on “always,” to “live life full,” and to “breathe.”
We sometimes hide our sad or fearful self behind a cheerful face. We become people we think others want us to be rather than being fully ourselves. By trying to survive we might lose integral bits of who we are. What happened to our creative, silly, dramatic side? It is still there hiding under the drudgery of a variety of masks.
Maybe there is a way to keep every part of our personalities alive. It is a radical thought, but what if we throw away our masks? We would have to be willing to make ourselves vulnerable enough to show others who we really and truly are.
We would have to trust them to piece our fragile fragments together with our sturdy bits. We might be surprised that people are happy with who we really and truly are. We might be surprised to learn that WE are happy with who we are.
We might find that our masks will only be worn on Halloween. Get silly, or spooky, or dramatic, or sultry to entertain others or simply yourself. Be bold and try for excessive costuming!
As the great bard my granddaughter will be dressing as once wrote:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players"
Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.