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No More Mask
Mom with a View

No More Mask

As we get older, with fewer defenses and inhibitions to provide any filters, our real selves poke through.


I heard something really frightening today. I hadn’t really given it much thought before. But now I’m really scared. Terrified, in fact.

I participated in a class where the teacher mentioned that she frequently visited old age homes when she was a child. Some of the residents were gracious and welcoming, always smiling and friendly and happy to see her. Others were crotchety, nasty and rude. (We’re not at the scary part yet…)

Without giving it much thought, I just assumed that the more unpleasant older folk were probably lonely and in pain and their behavior reflected this. And I’m sure for some that is true.

But in speaking with staff and relatives, the reality turned out to be much simpler. And much more horrifying. Their personalities reflected exactly who they had been their whole lives – with fewer defenses and inhibitions to provide any filters or masks.

If they had led lives of kindness and caring, that’s who they were. And, unfortunately, if they had led lives of bitterness and selfishness, that’s who they were as well. Their essence was on display. They simply lacked the resources and energy to cover it up.

When we’re younger we can still pretend. We can show one face to the world and another to our families, a smiling, subservient one to our boss and a haughty, arrogant one to our employees. We can cover up all the negative emotions that we are actually feeling.

But if it’s only a cover-up and not an actual change, our real selves will ultimately poke through. We won’t be able to fool everyone forever.

It’s frightening. If we don’t really change who we are – in a deeper, serious, internal way and not just a superficial one – then that person will, at some point, be all we have left.

Luckily we still have time. But we need to act. We need to uproot our negative character traits; we need to change our bad habits. And that’s all easier said than done. So we need to really get to work.

We can always grow. Well, almost always. I think some of those senior citizens alluded to earlier may find it too difficult to uproot the habits of a life time. We don’t want to take our chances. As it says in one of our favorite Dr. Seuss books, “The time has come. The time is now.”

I need to act immediately. And I pray that my old age will reflect my good intentions where my actions and character may fall short.

November 9, 2013

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 17

(12) Dee, January 16, 2014 6:04 PM

Less Fear as We Grow Older!

I am finding (turning the Big 5-0 later this year) that our reactions to what people think of us diminishes. We don't care! So what you think I am fat, or turning grey, or have a few wrinkles. I am less inhibited now to just put a smile on my face and speak to someone. It doesn't matter if they are prettier than me or hold a prestigious title. I don't care! I am Extremely Introverted, so this is a big change for me. I do have many bad habits (procrastination among them) that I continually work on with my husband's guidance, but hope to replace these with good habits that will "stick" with me as I get older.

(11) Emily, November 21, 2013 2:48 AM


I'm a psychologist and I specialize in geriatrics in nursing home facilities. The vast majority of these residents are in a lot of physical pain, must rely on others for the most basic activities of daily living (changing a diaper!!), and often struggle with dementia. Old age is very stressful, especially when confined to a nursing home. I wouldn't just chalk it up to being "crotchety"

(10) Anonymous, November 17, 2013 3:28 AM

Mortal man

Sometimes sick and elderly people that don't feel well including terminal cancer patients are dealing with their mortality and can lash out at those closest to them which can be quite a normal reaction to an abnormal situation . Cut them some slack. They are at a different developmental stage in life. Unfortunately most people are very ignorant and not sympathetic about this.

(9) Anonymous, November 14, 2013 10:09 PM

Being yourself

As people mature they could care less about what everyone thinks. When people become more aware of death they can also be more authentic and less politically correct and more free in the spirit of being true to themselves and others. This doesn't always have to be a bad thing. As an aside keep in mind how isolated and lonely many elderly are with often nobody to help them while they are struggling with all kinds of ailments as their friends or spouses die off. Many suffer from depression or Parkinsons and other ailments that can effect mood. People can be quick to judge the elderly and they don't REALLY put themselves in their shoes because it may force them to think of their own illnesses, frailty, loss of control and independence, and eventual death. In the justice system the reason the victim is often blamed (hence the term "criminal" justice) is it gives society a sense of security to say the victim "should have not been out so late."

(8) Beverly Kurtin, November 14, 2013 7:34 PM


Next month (December) I will be 73 years YOUNG. All my life, I've been one of "those people" who see a half-filled glass, laughs at her own stupidity, takes responsibility whenever she makes mistakes, tells jokes and finds humor in the most unlikely places.
When I SURVIVED a massive hemorrhagic stroke that took 49 units of blood and plasma to stop the bleeding in my head, I had the first of several grand mal seizures. When i became conscious, a nurse welcomed me back and asked me if I knew where I was. Yes, I most certainly did know I was in the ICU, I'd been there a few days previously when my carotid artery had been cleaned out.
When I tried to say, "ICU," I couldn't talk. The nurse, bless her, told me to really try, so I said "Iiiiiiiiii CU."
She said, "I see you, too, but do you know where you are?"
I cracked up. Two IVs were flowing into both hand, a slushy mix of frozen plasma was going into both hands and the pain was incredible, but STILL, I cracked up.
I thought to myself, "If I can laugh at a time like this, I've got it made in the shade."
The doctors sent me home to die. I didn't. That was 18 years ago and although a side effect of a drug I had to take forced me to retire, I'm still running strong...I left my doctors in the dust.
I feel sorry for the people who don't have a sunny disposition, they're not getting the most out of life.

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