I've been doing it again. As much as I rail against it, as much as I vow not to do it, I've been doing it again. I've put my happy face mask back on, and have been hiding behind it. AND, I've been avoiding anyone who might care enough to notice and try to get a peek behind the mask.
I attribute it to a number of causes. It's been a ridiculously difficult month - I'm likely in denial a bit. I don't want to sound like I'm whining and complaining - evoking sympathy is not my goal here. And I do want to focus on the positive, because there are always positives.
But I don't want to be fake, inauthentic. There's enough of that in the world, even in my little world - I don't want to contribute to it or even just encourage it by example.
So what's the proper balance? I really don't want to "let it all hang out", but isn't anything less than that less than real and honest?
I've been sick for the past week, with a flu the likes of which I've not experienced in years - thank heavens! I think I've finally turned a corner toward wellness, but it's been the bitter icing on the cake of a month which has been filled with challenge and hardship and angst and fear and doubt and pain and grief and plain ol' worry. And as awful as January was, it's not looking as if February will be much better in terms of the issues to be dealt with. To be honest, I'm weary of it all.
That's not to say these past few weeks have been devoid of joy - to the contrary! Take a look at my Facebook news feed, for example - joy abounds! And I'm thankful to have it recorded in a place where I can go back and remind myself that no, January did not totally and completely suck.
Any real joy had to be fought for, hunted down, distilled from all the difficulty and distress.
Maybe that's the lesson here.
Because the negatives will always be there, to varying degrees. And the joy will always be there, too - fighting for its fair share of air time.
What I don't want, though, is for anyone to think that joy is all there is. While that would be lovely (or would it?), everyone knows the truth. Everyone suffers - mostly quietly, alone. I think that's such a shame. We all have so much common ground, similar experience, universal understanding... We could help each other so much just by being up front about our struggles. It's such a comfort to know we're not alone, isn't it?
I had to call in sick five days in a row for my school lunch room job and felt so awful leaving them short-handed. On the fifth day, my supervisor responded that she had had the same flu over Christmas. All she said was, "I feel for you", but it went deep in erasing my sense of guilt.
It doesn't take much! A second of real connection, of genuine compassion, of shared emotion goes a long way.
So I'm intentionally peeling off that mask yet again. That's when you get the real joy :)