Since the 14 century and throughout the Renaissance period masquerade balls were the talk of society. The parties were a highlight of elite society in Venice, Italy. Tradition created by a need for privacy and anonymity became a valuable tool used by the lower class to hide their true character and personality. It saved these individuals from being taunted by the upper class. Allowing them to say or do whatever they wanted without the backlash that would result from their criticism. Famous masquerade balls in history included The Vanderbilt Costume Ball, Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball and the infamous Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Costume balls for the wealthiest of individuals go as far back as 1883.
Isabella grew up in an electrifying city that boasts a size of over 8 million people. It’s the norm to walk alongside strangers each day wearing a face of displeasure. New York is a place where your mask is your first line of defense. She wore hers often enough that it became part of her everyday routine. She became a permanent guest at her own masquerade ball – Her Life.
Isabella was hired right out of college to work for one of the most demanding industries in the city. The high pressure environment pushed her to the edge on days when financial markets didn’t do well. The intensity of being a trader became intolerable over the years making her regret certain choices on the worst performing days. Life got brighter when she met her love. A man who seemed to save her from the reality of a career she had begun to resent. He came at the perfect time to wine and dine her while taking care of every whim. Josh was intelligent, adventurous and considerate but also mysterious. Initially, the secrecy was sexy until details of his life became sinister.
The concerns became all too consuming taking focus from work. Things at the office were volatile making it feel unstable at times. Disdain for the boss turned her off becoming increasingly more difficult to come into the office each day. Isabella chose to hide her dislike by wearing a false face to save her livelihood. She needed the paycheck to meet expenses for the time being. Workdays were long and stressful which made her unhappy. The thoughts of Josh’s undisclosed life added a layer of complexity that was too much to handle after several months of dating. One night at dinner she demanded answers from him about where he lived and where he came from? He gave her the look of a deer in headlights. Something didn’t feel right. His eyes gave it away. Breathing deeply with a sigh the words she hears are devastating “Izzy, it’s never been my intention to hurt you. The months of lies were truly killing me. I’ve been walking around with a mask for such a long time in my marriage that I started to believe my own tales. I’m sorry, I dragged you down with me.” The sadness in her eyes was followed by astonishment. Physically holding herself back in her chair, she responded “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY SIGHT! Josh you’re a fraud. Coward! I never want to see you again! GO!”
Isabella never heard from him again after that night. She pondered her life and beat herself up about how she missed the signs. The thing is, intuitively we know when something is off kilter. Sometimes we’re blinded by the spotlight of attention, love, or we plainly prefer to ignore what our heart tells us. While Josh was hiding an entirely other life, she was living her own lie. She was miserable at a job working for someone she hated. Her reasons for staying were valid. It was a necessary means to overcome financial challenges. Nonetheless, still less than honest.
How many men and women do we know that live a lie? How many people lay each night next to someone they once loved but feel nothing for anymore. How many of us race through the day saying “I’m good, how are you?” knowing damn well – you’re a hot mess that’s far from OK. Are any of us exactly who we say we are? Or do we all try to keep up some masquerade to hide behind. To protect ourselves? Our feelings and living situations? There are different types of masks with varying degrees of covering up the true self. I’m of the opinion that life is one big masquerade ball.
If you can sit still in comfortable silence during sporadic moments of peaceful serenity to enjoy your personal truth. You will have found the safest disguise.
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