The other night I was sitting on my couch, working on my laptop. I could hear rustling noises coming from outside, but that’s not so unusual; there are lots of critters who scavenge around at night, like cats, raccoons, and possums. Usually Abby spends the evening begging me to let her outside to chase them, but tonight she was curled up on the couch next to me.
Suddenly I look up to see a Raccoon in my kitchen! He’s looking at me with big curious eyes behind his fury bandit mask with a mischievous little grin and says to me, “Excuse me Ma’am, would you mind if I just rifle about in your kitchen trash for a bit?”
My instinctive reaction when taken by surprise is to scream. So I did. He ran back out the kitchen patio door, but then sat there looking at me behind the flexible mesh screen I have hanging in the doorway.
I turned to Abby. Now, I’ve just screamed, and Abby hasn’t even looked up. To be fair, she’s heard me scream like that quite a bit, usually when surprised by an unexpected visit from an arachnid. She’s never been able to connect a visible threat with that scream, so she’s come to ignore it. Also, she couldn’t see into the kitchen from her vantage point.
I say to her, “Abby, there was a Raccoon, in the house. He’s sitting on the porch. Go get it!” She looks up and says, “I’ve been advocating the need to chase those fellows off our property for years and you’ve just ignored me. I’ve been predicting this escalation of criminal activity all along, and now you want me to do something about it? Forget it, I’m comfortable. You take care of it.”
At that point, the Raccoon pokes his head in again and says, “Terribly sorry to have frightened you Ma’am, that certainly wasn’t my intention. Are you sure I can’t just take a peek in that trash bin? Your dog doesn’t seem to mind.”
I decided the best way to deal with this situation was to pull out my phone and take a picture of the intruder. I got up and informed him of my intention. He responded, “Well now, I certainly don’t need any bad press. I’ll just be on my way.” And he loped off down the stairs and disappeared into the dark.
Sometimes for fun, I like to look at the “totems” or symbolism of my animal visitors. I’ve written about this before on the spiders I cohabitate with (as long as they follow house rules, one of which is: DO NOT SURPRISE ME!). Here’s the message Raccoon had for me:
Are you focusing too much on other people’s negativity? Time to detach and move on.
That mask is the first thing that stands out about a raccoon and it symbolizes disguises that hide our identity. It’s tempting to associate that mask with a bandit sneaking in the back door to thieve in the trash. But the coon doesn’t consider himself a thief. He’s just a clever critter using his curiosity and ingenuity to score supper. He was fine going elsewhere when I got all negative with him.
Since most of us aren’t criminals, we might think of a mask in the social sense of hiding our true selves out of fear that we won’t be accepted. Again, it’s tempting to view this as negative, but there have been times for all of us when our masks have protected us from those who had no interest in our true selves. In that sense, our disguises are a form of resourcefulness — it’s not always prudent to be ourselves. The problem comes when we become too focused on the people around whom we have to protect our inner light, and start seeing our masks as a symbol of victimization.
When we find ourselves acting out the drama of masked victims, it’s time to detach and move on. Mr Raccoon did not spend the evening moping about how I rejected him. He simply scampered off to forage elsewhere. We can bring that same lighthearted nonchalance to our own interactions by visualizing doning and removing our masks as a conscious choice: Here I am, in an environment of people who don’t get what I’m trying to do with my life. I’ll don this work mask until I can go back to communing with my tribe. Yay! I’m back in safe territory! I’ll set this mask aside and embody my personal truths.
At first glance, that might ring of inauthenticity. But it carries an element of practicality and taking a stand for yourself. Those who don’t wish to see you, don’t get to see you. You are not required to give all of your energy away to people who don’t support your dreams, even if you are required to spend time with them. Not everyone in your life will understand you or support you, but you have the choice to detach from negativity that adversely affects you and move on with your own visions.