Holding On to the Last Mask

Masks give us strength
And hide our weaknesses.
They are protection
against disease,
Cover our lies,
Or keep us from the truth.

They help us to fit in,
To be invisible,
Or to stand out,
And be seen.

They can cover our imperfection
Or they can emphasize it.

They give us strength to
show our best selves.
Or let us loudly proclaim
our worst fears.

Hiding behind our “authentic” self
Can makes us feel superior,
And sometimes cause
more harm than good.

Sharing our tears
Makes us feel vulnerable.
Can I trust you with my tears?
Or do I stay where I am safe?

Behind my mask

By Cheryl McDonald 2022©

If you would like to listen to me read this poem, please click below.

We in the U. S. and most of the world have been wearing actual, literal masks for the last 3 years. Cloth or paper, against our will or not, some of us non-stop. Masks to protect us from an evil virus that just won’t go away.

Masks have always been part of human culture. Animal skulls and other constructed masks were used in ritual during primitive times. Uniform dress for castes and social strata, military, government and other officials throughout developing history were to create a sense of respect. On holidays like Halloween and Carnivale, celebrations allow us to don ornate, frightening, or other exaggerations which let us act out behaviors we might not otherwise engage in. Playing a new part can be fun and sometimes illuminating. Clowns in the circus or on stage can be fun or frightening. Modern fright films have taken advantage and elevated and exaggerated all these things.

However, this painting, Holding On to the Last Mask is about a very different kind of mask. Back in the mid 2000’s, I and many others I was acquainted with, were in the midst of a period of personal self-discovery. We were thinking about the concept of wearing or shedding masks as more about hiding or revealing your authentic self than protection against pathogens.

If you could shed and be free of your masks, you were more self-aware and unattached from binding social structures. You were “Free to Be”.

In this painting I was exploring the experience of shedding old masks, habits, or persona that no longer suited me. I was experiencing self-discovery and becoming comfortable with my unique and awesome self. As I let go of each one I realized there was another that needed addressing. In this painting I am the clothesline and each mask that falls is a behavior or habit I no longer need. And it seemed that the closer I thought I was getting to my awesome self the more elaborate each mask got and the harder it was to shed. What I have discovered over time is that even our most beautiful, elaborate, and cherished masks fade and no longer fit.

As it turns out I am still on a path of self discovery. Daily journaling, listening to my intuition, reading philosophy and other writers gives me insights to new pieces of myself that need to be discovered. If I were to do this painting now, I would have to add several more layers to the discard pile! It is work all this growth, and I sometimes wonder if I would be happier if I had never taken that first philosophy class. However, it is not in my nature to not question everything. I am a child of the 60’s afterall!

Growth is part of life and the alternative is stagnation and death. And as I grow and experience new things, I know now that there is nothing so sweet as the realization and appreciation of waking each morning to celebrate a new day and finding new ways to grow, create, and share.

We are all on a journey through time and how we choose to experience it is totally up to us! Honor your journey and enjoy the ride!

Have a Happy Day!


Cheryl McDonald is a California Artist that has worked in multiple styles and styles. Here, you can see more of her art or join her weekly newsletter

Published by cherylmcdonald

Thank you for taking a little time to get to know me. Making art has been my life, I love to tell stories through words and pictures. I am a multi-media artist working in photography, watercolor, various drawing media, and sometimes digital art.

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