Life Behind the Mask – Is It Monday?

Life Behind the Mask - Is It Monday?

Something invisible, terrifying, beyond our walls,
just outside the door, scratches at the window, waiting.
We fear it has come to destroy us and perhaps it has,
those spiky red Christmas balls spreading across screens.

We’re not good at the moment, no, we are frightened!
Truly we’re at war with ourselves, at war with Fate itself,
as quarantine and job losses offer tremendous suffering
and tremendous teaching that go together, hand in hand.

Locked inside our body, locked inside our house, we try
to hide our deepest fears behind sterile, protective masks,
from a foe that attacks the breath, the lungs, the Atman.
Does Corona not know that breathing is necessary for us?

Yet, as we collectively dethrone the ego, the imbalance
of our past life allows the archetypes to step in, tailoring
time, as the Day of the Moon no longer looms ahead.
Instead, we tiptoe around corners asking – is it Monday?

 

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2020

32 thoughts on “Life Behind the Mask – Is It Monday?

  1. Deborah, I’ve been perusing your blog for a while now, and what a marvelous find. At first, I pondered some novel madness had stricken me, since I could access your posts on WordPress Reader, but not comment on them, even though I’m not in the habitude of commenting. We’ve had no shortage of corona-related-content as of late, and I tend to skip over most of it, but this poem struck me as deeply interesting, if not for the subtle psychological realism it contains.

    When the world started to abate upon itself — and I was myself attacked by that fateful infectious disease here in Portugal — I wrote a small prosaic piece about the emptiness of Lisbon; Jupiter, the loneliest planet, I called it, and in it I did not speak directly of the virus, but I did say what I felt at the time: we forgot how to fear wisely. The coronavirus is not merely a virus, it’s also a hyperobject, a pernicious shade that absorbs many iterations of fear and where those, perhaps enshrouded by many other nomenclatures, find porous ground into which they may seep. And it seems (and, to my belief, it is a magnificent seeming and nothing else) that we were deconstructed and put back together under a series of pressuring whirls and punctures.

    Although my life is short thus-far, and although I’ve had myriad instances of mania and depression throughout my life, I’ve never felt the sentiment of collective dread and grief that this pandemic has spurred; and now, sitting on my office once more, healed, drinking a coffee, inspiring and expiring as a sheet of smoke at wind, I feel as if nothing quite budged, and I’m back on a world that did not inspire me the sincerity and justice that underlies humanity; on a world that cannot expire, such is the sargassum that bottles it up, and yet feels to be all at once expiring constantly.

    Not enough has changed, and there’s wrath in that, Deborah. We’ve been through a vision of hell none of us knew the semblance of, and yet, our spirits were merely dislodged, and none of them reforged. I don’t know, then, if that is a testament to our tenacity as beings, or a monument to how our ability to expand and produce appears to indicate growth, but that is only appearance; that we are, at the end of the day, fear-machines; primitive gestalts of chemistry whose greatest blessing is that of forgetting.

    1. Thank you so much João-Maria for your rich and passionate comment on my latest poem and a warm welcome to my poetry and Jungian thought blog. It’s great to hear that you’ve been reading here for a while before commenting. I’m truly honoured! For me poetry and psychology go hand-in-hand. I sincerely hope that you’re now fully recovered from the virus.

      I’ve just read the beautiful prose article https://caliath.com/2020/03/25/droplet-jupiter-the-loneliest-planet/#comments you mention in your reply and I’m including your link so that others may also enjoy the rich beauty of your truly poetical and philosophical pen! It’s impressive and deserves many re-reads because one cannot digest such richness in one sitting alone!

      I greatly enjoyed how you wrote about the virus, how it has deconstructed us, globally and is putting us back together “under a series of pressuring whirls and punctures”. What wild times we’re living in, no wonder the word “unprecedented” is used in many newspapers and articles. That you focus on the breath is key I feel, especially in light of the murder of George Floyd and his dying words.

      There is so much to say, to write, to sing about! This time for all is extraordinary to live through! Death surrounds us, it’s just outside our doors, our windows, a little way down the streets where we tiptoe, terrified of this invisible enemy. Yes, I agree we’re certainly living through a vision of hell! And how will we come out of it? Will we be changed? You ask all the important questions. Thank you!

      Blessings always, Deborah.

      1. I’m glad that you’ve read me, although now, I’m a bit abashed, since my intention was not that of garnering readers. I find you a marvelous author and I’m genuinely exulted with the fact that I discovered you.

        Thank you so much, for your kindness and warm reception. I’m sure I will have a beautiful time following your words.

        1. Such high praise! I am deeply humbled. Thank you.

          We’re few in numbers here yet like-minded souls who learn much from reading and sharing each others words and work. Sharing your exquisite article yesterday was my pleasure. I have a feeling that I will learn much from following your blog.

  2. I love this and I’m grateful, Deborah. I feel all this alongside the dance of the Goddess and the Green Man. I’ll say more later. Sending love and deep breaths from across the sea, Elaine

    1. Thank you so much Elaine! Within the embrace of a huge oak elder yesterday afternoon I recited my poem, “The Goddess and Her Green Man” in dedication of you and Vic, your beloved Green Man. Love and blessings, Deborah.

      1. I shared “The Goddess and Her Green Man” on Facebook and Lin responded and told me what you’d already done. Thank you, Deborah. I walked to the forest and made an altar for the Green Man at Vic’s cairn near the red oak tree. Now to your poem with a clearer morning head…

        I’m captured by the spiky Christmas balls, the scratching invasion, and the sense of dread. It’s time for an Underworld Journey into the dark worlds of Corona or Baba Yaga or Erishkegal. No, we are not good. Our families are not good. Our earth is not good. We knew some reckoning was coming, but didn’t imagine it all at once or like this. A pandemic? How innocent I was. Mother Earth is pissed off and has every right to be. We’ve trashed her royal residence.

        You describe the mask in the scary way I feel about wearing one with the added struggle of not being able to read lips. I mostly stay home and my son and a friend shop plus a weekly delivery from a local organic farm. Your images of breath tighten my chest as I remember the helplessness of being with someone who can’t breathe. I’m so glad your wife had you and Vic had me.

        I feel the lack of human imposed order, of knowing for sure that this is Tuesday (is it?) or is it Monday? No, it’s Tuesday. I feel confused and lost when I try to figure out how to live in this time, so I cling to a few habits such as writing and gardening. I’m grateful for Nature and the trails and birds where I know what day it is. It’s bluebird day! The 5 eggs have incubated for 12 days so should hatch soon. And then it will be tree swallow day. Spring was slow this year, but she arrived and her patterns bring natural order. First the trout lilies and hepatica, then the trillium and violets, then the gaywings. First the shadbush and cherry, then the red maples, later the hard maples and oaks.

        As always, I watch the planets with Jupiter conjunct Pluto, magnifying the Dark Dismantling Side with Saturn coming back to join Pluto in a few months, as if we haven’t had enough of that duo for the last two years. It takes so much to wake us up. Thank you for your poem and for putting words to these feelings and bringing more light and consciousness to the dark journey. I’m grateful for you, Deborah, and so grateful for your wife’s recovery, even if it’s slow. Wishing you health, safety, inspiration (body and soul), and always love, Elaine

        1. Firstly, thank you so much Elaine for sharing my poem on FB! Yes, Lin pointed it out when she saw it in her timeline. Great stuff! I’ve had many visitors these last couple of days. I’m so pleased to hear that you visited Vic’s sacred cairn yesterday, no doubt with the gorgeous Willow and the dancing Disco in tow. I thought of you often as yesterday passed and as you know enjoyed a sunny walk myself to visit one of my favourite oak elders with the poet’s wife.

          Ha-Ha! You know it was in your recent reply to me that the poetic seed was first sown and those red spiky Christmas ornaments spread across my psyche and tv screens as an image of the coronavirus. Yes, it’s a deep, mythological, underworld journey indeed! Oh my Goddess! “Mother Earth is pissed off and has every right to be. We’ve trashed her royal residence.” Wow, you’ve hit the nail on its proverbial head there, for every word, sentence, is so dammed true!

          I fully appreciate the necessary of having to wear a mask in public places and have spotted a few clear mouthed wearers too (I hadn’t thought of not being able to read lips before you mentioned it) yet it feels scary to wear one. It heightens my anxiety but if it’s going to save me from spreading my unknown germs to others so be it. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things Elaine to stay safe and shop locally and minimise contact with all others.

          I too am clinging to a few old habits, like cycling most days. My usual route is around ten miles and it’s along the beautiful coastline where I live which takes me around an hour and sets me up for the day nicely as I do this before breakfast. Ah! What a fantastic way to know the days! I love that, bluebird and tree swallow days, most excellent! Here in the UK the local, ancient woodlands are green and lush! The Goddess & her Green Man rule! “From bud to flower to leaf we’ll reign.”

          I intend to learn more about astrology as I age and having discovered a fantastic astrologer, Pam Gregory, on YouTube, I highly recommend her if you’ve got room for another astrologer in your life! My second Saturn return began when Saturn moved into Aquarius on March 21st, two days later we were in lockdown. OMG! I thought, talk about a curve ball as no one saw this coming! (The astrologers did!)

          Let me finish with my deep heartfelt thanks to you for all the love and support you’ve sent in recent weeks. Much love, light and laughter winging their way back to you and across the oceans between us, Deborah.

  3. Yes, it feels like a sentient entity to me, too. Perhaps that’s a coping mechanism, but without the understanding of your final stanza, my idea wasn’t answering.
    Thank you for working it out, Deborah. I hadn’t made that final, necessary step.

    1. There is so much to say here yet we struggle to find words. A little more than two months ago many of us foolishly valued the bankers and business leaders of this world and today it turns out that our supermarket workers and nurses are among those who hold jobs that really matter to our world. “Sentient entity” is such a good description of the coronavirus!

      Seen through a Jungian lens this speaks of a rebalancing of the masculine and feminine principles which I’ve started to explore in my “Animus Diet” essays (Jungian Archives) which no doubt I’ll be adding a further chapter too as we emerge from this pan-demon-ic. Thank you so much Cath for your visit and your enlightening reply. Blessings always, Deborah.

        1. Thanks Cath. I’ve filed them under Categories, in Jungian Archives.
          Peruse them at your leisure! 🙂 “The Animus Diet” is in four parts.

  4. A very pleasant and thoughtful poem in many respects. There is something liberating about realizing the ambiguity, changing and impermanent nature of life. This may be a crude awakening for some, but living life on life’s terms, rather than striving for a bigger slice of the American pie, has a sobering element to it. Kind of like waking up from a bad dream of sorts.

    1. Thank you so much Jason for your generous, inspiring comment! I enjoyed the way you wrote about “living life on life’s terms” because the way we’ve been living and the hours we’ve been working have been insane! I hope our global quarantines become a wake-up call for many. On a personal note, I’ve decided to further reduce my working hours after lockdown and social distancing rules no longer apply. Blessings always, Deborah.

  5. Work has stopped. The treadmill has broken. My Sunday night blues are over. My Monday morning mask is no longer needed.

    Thank you Deborah for encouraging us to step out from behind the bright persona and share our true nature.

    1. Although I’ve been self-employed for the past 20 years, I do remember that sense of dread and impending doom when contemplating Monday morning and having to get back on the “Hamster Wheel” as I used to call it! I imagine, despite the tremendous suffering, there must also be great relief for many at having this enforced, extended break from work that they might’ve been craving for years. Watching young families, in particular, all going for a walk, or gardening together is such a joy!

      Many thanks for your truly wonderful response Bookworm, I’m deeply touched. I guess language will always expresses itself the way it wants too. Poetry is such a hidden root that lies deep below the ground or maybe for some deep behind a mask. Love and light, Deborah.

  6. Dear Deborah,
    Synchronistically, I just finished a ZOOM session with my book group and ended it with a poem by Joy Harjo, the USA’s new poet laureate and the first Native American to hold that honor. The poem is about fear.

    It begins ,

    “I release you, my beautiful and terrible
    fear, I release you. You were my beloved
    and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
    as myself. I release you with all the
    pain I would know at the death of
    my children……..”

    And ends,

    “But come here, fear
    I am alive and you are so afraid
    of dying.”

    Yes, our greatest enemy. And then your exquisite lines…

    “Yet as we collectively dethrone the ego, the imbalance
    of our past life allows the archetypes to step in…”

    And there she is, the Beloved, with her tremendous teaching.
    Thank you for the beautiful reminder that there are powers greater than our egos that know a better way and have a bigger plan for us. As Dame Julian of Norwich said,
    “All shall be well; and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

    Love and blessings,
    Jeanie

    1. Thank you so much Jeanie for your beautiful comment that includes Joy’s exquisite poem! I know I need to read more of her incredible work. Synchronicity works like magic doesn’t it! Please know I’m deeply grateful for your continual support and encouragement of my soul’s journey.

      I’ve been reminded of the “Power of Poetry” often during lockdown, as it spreads so much joy in our worlds of self-isolation and quarantine. The poets not only take us away from ourselves they take us into ourselves in ways I struggle to find words to describe. I love it that the internet is awash with thousands of lockdown poems because it’s so much better to release emotions than keep them bottled up inside of us, especially the emotion of fear.

      Despite having several Zoom sessions with family and friends, I have to confess I don’t enjoy them much … although it’s always lovely to catch up! I just miss those in-person nuances, those red eyes, filling with tears or laughter, and bodies that speak different languages to voices. I say this and yet I’ve enjoyed many webinars during this time. If Zoom is to become my “new normal” I need to confront any resistance and stop being such a Luddite!

      Sending love and many blessings back to you, Deborah.

  7. Is it Christmas? Thanks Deborah, I won’t be looking at my decorations the same way again! This is not the same as your more polished work but it’s still good and I’m glad you discarded your persona to share this stream of consciousness. These lines ‘tremendous suffering and tremendous teaching that go together, hand in hand’ say it all. Fortunately, I haven’t lost my job but many will, and my heart goes out to them. All the best, Anna.

    1. Ha-Ha! Yes, it certainly feels like Christmas atm because I have no idea of what day it is either! A friend mentioned Christmas baubles in a reply to me and I thought hmm, now there’s a poetic seed to be sown! There is a slight resemblance for sure!

      Thank you so much for your lovely reply Anna and understanding re this “coffee” poem being different. I’ve explained more in my replies below, hope that helps! I’m so pleased your job is secure and you’re obviously happy to back back to it.

      Love and blessings, Deborah.

  8. This is a deeply stressful and frightening time for so many Deborah and your poem, a move away from your usual poetic style, pictures the scene so well with the terror scratching at our windows…life seems like a horror B-movie especially in the way some of the politicians are playing it out – I won’t mention disinfectant!

    That said the teaching is there for all of us and this has already been seen in the positive responses we have shown in how we support and interact in our communities and in our connection to and renewed respect for nature. I hope these lessons aren’t forgotten when life returns to a semblance of normality.

    It’s certainly been a wakeup call for me in how I work and in what I actually do for a living – the lockdown has given me, and many others I’m sure, a chance to reassess if they really are doing the work that they were truly born to do. For me I know the answer and feel like The Fool with my foot about to step off the cliff onto a new adventure into the unknown..and yes, as I sit in enforced limbo, I have certainly lost track of time and the days – in a way it is quite liberating to not be limited by working weekdays and resting weekends!

    Thank you for posting this Deborah and sending you warm blessing, Sophia.

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your truly wonderful reply to my latest poem! Yes, a move away from my usual poetic style for sure but I’m beginning to understand that taking off my own mask / persona has been necessary for me too. I hope that makes sense! No, don’t mention the disinfectant please! This invisible enemy is a terrifying one and the only images we have of it are those spiky red cells that multiply across our screens … following a friend’s remark on Christmas balls, a seed was sown!

      As you know on Thursday nights in the UK neighbourhoods come out and clap for key workers and over the past two months in our street alone, more and more of us are connecting, from a safe distance, to each other in ways we haven’t done for years. I’m loving it! I really hope this rebuilds communities across all towns, and countries. Yes, I think many of us are renewing and re-discovering the joy and beauty of nature during lockdown. People talk of a “new normal” following lockdown, I hope this is the case too!

      For me after lockdown, I’ll continue working as a psychotherapist as it’s always felt right, almost vocational, alongside writing poems but I think you’re right, especially with those people who’ve lost their jobs … perhaps it’s time for them to explore a new career, or look to retrain or even maybe it’s time for some to reach for the stars and chase their dreams in other ways, work or otherwise. Could be the time to sit and write the book that’s been waiting behind the mask or create a new website. Love and blessings, Deborah.

      1. In my eyes now is a time to reset and for us to be more real – being true to ourselves and to be more of ourselves in our interactions with the world around us. The masks are off to coin a reworded phrase and perhaps that is what you have done with this poem. In changing your style this could be the seed for you of a new idea – a book even perhaps?!

        1. I think you’ve nailed it, “the masks (gloves) are off, indeed!”

          Thank you so much Sophia for sharing such (true to your name!) divine wisdom. Believe me when I write, a poetic seed has been sown! Love and light, Deborah. x

  9. Dear Deborah, as always this is such a depthful post, thank you. I read it earlier today, but am responding only now and in any event it is always such a pleasure to re-read your prose. Maybe we need to be frightened enough to remove our masks, tho fear for the right thing would be appropriate. Can we influence our Fate? Perhaps we can, consciously, by facing the fear and stripping ourselves of our illusions and masks and personas and allowing the archetypes to be felt in all their power – and to see how why where and when they reflect a deep underlying pattern and to see also how deep we have to go, what work we have to do, what life task we have to commit to, to Know Thyself.

    I think the below was yesterday – I copied and pasted it. It’s from @sophiacycles a lovely twitter link that I follow for short sharp wise commentary, invariably Jungian.

    ‘This new age…will be an age of the poet—not the poet as noun, not the poet as career, but the necessity of poetry, the seeking by each one of us, a finding and drinking the waters and the milk of the Muses: poetry as verb, poetry as what we do.~Russell Lockhart’

    It’s so lovely and I thought immediately of you.

    With love from across the seas, Susan

    1. Firstly, thank you so much Susan for including @sophiacycles tweet in your wonderful reply, I do follow her but must’ve missed that one. It’s brilliant so I’ve retweeted it myself! Secondly, yes, this is more prose than poetry as I usually like to polish poems more than I’ve done here … however, who am I to argue with the Muses, for when they call, I can but only run to them.

      Perhaps it is here, in the unevenness of my words, that the archetypes are stepping in … I haven’t thought of that before but it makes sense that archetypes do that with all types of creativity whether it’s a painting, pottery or a poem? Now there’s more food for thought!

      Yes, I do believe many of us actually need to be frightened enough to remove our masks and I definitely felt that happen with me in relation to my beloved wife’s recent illness. Everything just blurred and illusions fell away and all I was left with was love and prayer … it was a deeply humbling experience, one I hope I shall never forget. One day, I’ll write more about this but the words are not with me yet … so I must wait. Perhaps I’ve needed to strip away my polished poet persona and offer up the raw, unedited, unpolished version of myself? It feels right to say this. Wow, there’s lots for me to reflect on here!

      Btw, your son David is amazing, I haven’t laughed so much in ages today when I watched his latest “Cher” parody video! Sending you love and light across the oceans between us, Deborah.

  10. Hey Deborah, it really does feel like Christmas because I seriously no idea what day it is!! I enjoyed the wry humour of your title together with the gravity of its matter. You haven’t posted a coffee poem for a while, it makes a change, a good one at that!! The symbolic image of a Venetian mask works well with your theme of what life is like behind the mask. HF

    1. No, I haven’t posted a “coffee poem” (I like that!) for a while Henry … and to be honest this one just downloaded itself onto my screen in a 30 minute stream of consciousness! Ha-Ha! The title, well I couldn’t resist because I’ve been asking the same question for weeks now!

      I took the photo of the beautiful Venetian mask I own years ago but only (re)discovered it earlier this morning. The very fact that it’s taken near my Goddess Venus torso was just perfect! Thanks so much for popping by and gifting me your lovely comment! Love and blessings, Deborah.

      1. Re: the planet Venus, she’s like a huge flashing light in the sky now all the planes have gone.

        1. Henry, I’ve stepped outside on many a late night during quarantine to look up to the stars and have to agree, on clear nights the beloved, “Morning Star” dazzles! x

  11. How true, and how touching are your words. Though, I think that the fear and only it’s the fear our greatest enemy, it makes me very sad that this invisible monster separated us and given us this uncertainty and mistrust that we all are hiding ourselves behind the mask!
    Thank you dearest Deborah for your as ever heart touching poem. ❣

    1. Thank you so much Aladin for your wonderful response! I wasn’t sure I would even post this short poem as I only wrote it this morning while sitting in the garden, thinking about the masks we hide behind and how many we wear. Fear, yes our greatest enemy or foe! I hope this sunny May day finds you well my dear friend. Love and blessings, Deborah. ❣

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