Thriving Women: Jack-o-lanterns are popping up on doorsteps...

Posted on Oct. 12, 2007 at 11:19 a.m.

By: Randi Waldman

Dearest Thriving Women,
Jack-o-lanterns are popping up on doorsteps, our neighbors have their elaborate Halloween display going on, and conversations in households abound with the question, "What shall I be for Halloween?".  I remember the angst I felt as a child trying to find just the right costume.  One shining moment in memory is winning my third grade's "guess the person behind the costume" contest....I stumped the entire class as I sweated under the head-to-toe plastic totem pole costume, my eyes peering out from the deep recesses of this store bought tomb, only my shoes poking out from the bottom.  I could barely breathe from the nervous excitement combined with the plastic fumes as guess after guess proved wrong until I was the undisputed winner!  Ultimately, only my familiar shoes finally gave the clue to my identity, and I triumphantly carried home the prize pumpkin allocated to the winner.
Other costumes over the years come to mind.  There was the year that I got up the courage to ask a cute boy in my class (quite a daring feat for the shy, nine-year-old me!) to borrow his football uniform.  I used by big brother's crutches from a healed broken leg and went as an injured player.  In those days, we paraded around the block surrounding the school, and by the end, I had huge, raw blisters from the crutches.  I could barely hold onto my trick-or-treat bag (I managed of course, inspired by creativity fueled by the longing of a bulging bag of usually forbidden goodies!)!
Then I recall the Halloween when I wore the kimono that my father had brought home from the war for my mother.  I wore my hair tightly pulled back, completely white make-up covered my face, and I wore little white socks with black flip-flops.  I can remember the feeling that my face  was going to crack open from the tightness of the face paint.  It was itchy and hot, and when I finally got the make-up off, I had an allergic rash for days all over my face!
Where does all of this Halloween reminiscing and pondering take me today?  I am thinking of the fun we have in leaving ourselves behind for awhile and showing up as someone completely different.  The world around us responds so uniquely to our new form that we give ourselves license to be imaginative.  Given the magic of this night, we can almost become the persona we portray. 
As I reflect on this, I am moved beyond the fun aspect of becoming someone else for awhile to see the healing potential that lies beneath the surface of this temporary transformation.  I think about the adage "to walk in someone else's shoes", and it occurs to me that a deeper understanding and heightened empathy may be the results of donning a costume. 
Looking back at my childhood costumes, I certainly had a much clearer perspective of the discomfort an athlete has with the cumbersome, hot, constraining uniform of shoulder pads, thick pants and a weighty helmet.  Add crutches to the mix, and to this day, when I see a person hobbling around on crutches, I can practically feel the raw blisters I took home that day.  I can remember how frustrating it was to try to keep up with everyone walking at a normal pace, and how complicated even the easiest task of carrying a bag for candy became. 
As an Asian woman, I could hardly walk in the confining bounds of the kimono and the discomfort of socks wedged between my toes in flip-flops.  The thick paste of face paint made it impossible for me to use my facial expressions to show others my true feelings.  The discomfort of all this made me long for "my normal self", and I wondered how these women made it through the rigorous daily regime of intricate make-up and confined movement in order to be "presentable".  It made me so grateful to have freedom of expression, movement and comfort.
Even as a totem pole, I felt the rigidity and restriction of wearing a mask that is designed to inspire and tell a story, but can never break free from it's singular version, and I wonder how many humans feel so stuck behind the masks they have created for themselves?   

It is about a week and a half until Halloween.  I invite you to engage in the practice of "walking in someone else's shoes" during this time.  Imagine yourself as another, facing their particular life challenges and experiences.  Through this practice, I believe it is possible to expand your perspective, allow your heart to open, to soften your spirit with compassion and empathy, and to finally return to yourself with deep gratitude for all the health and abundance that is already yours right now!
Yours in Thriving Health and Happiness,
Randi, Daniela and Paula


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