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My wife and I used to giggle at women who were wearing too much makeup.  My wife almost never wore makeup at all, the only time she did was because her mother insisted on it for certain things.  Weddings were the most common requirement that makeup would be lathered on her, and she couldn't get out of that gear fast enough to return to her 'normal' self.  In her opinion, makeup changed who she was, and she wasn't going to have any of it.  It was the facade that people put on day to day to show to others their 'best' side.  My wife was all about showing who she really was.  

Every day since my wife passed away, I have been putting on makeup.  No it doesn't come in a jar, and it isn't something I take off the shelf in the morning, but it is just as much a facade over who I am as anything else is. I get up in the morning, look at the empty space on the bed and my eye droop again at the thought that she is no longer there.  I walk through the house with pictures screaming at me about times I can only remember and no longer experience again.  All of these batter me as I move through the house to get ready to go to work.  After breakfast and packing up for the day, I throw on my makeup, I paste on the smile and adjust the attitude to be in front of people.  I muster a false energy that I typically don't feel I have.  I wrangle my strength to drive through the day and deliver on expectations and often a little more than expectations as a person who has always been driven to high performance.  

When I did my annual review last year with my boss, I wrote that due to family situations I felt that my performance was pretty poor and that I could do better.  My boss said that I had exceeded her expectations and that my performance was very good and she was shocked at how well I had done to come back so quickly and to dive right back into things.  She mentioned how she had been when she had lost a family member very close to her and had just not been useful in the office for months.  And so in that moment, I knew that I had chosen the right makeup.  I had fooled others into thinking I was so much better off than I was.  

I have always been a person who keeps only a few close friends, I am not one who likes to air out his stuff with a ton of people, and thus these blogs posts are so much different than who I was before.  I would never have put down in words let alone shared those words, how I was feeling or doing, and yet rip away my outlet and confidant and suddenly I need that release valve.  And because of my long standing desire to be seen a certain way, I paint on the facade for work each day but then use this as a means of releasing the tension that comes from having to hold a smile when I would prefer a frown.  

Now, there is something to be said about makeup and pretend.  The saying fake it until you make it, really does hold a certain value and reality.  And there is a slightly different version of that saying that I heard from a Ted Talk, fake it until you become it.  So I am hoping that by continuing to drive forward, paste on the smile, and try each day to drive through it rather than around it, that I will eventually not need to wake up with the need to paste on the smile, it will already be there, that I won't have to muster all the strength I have to give the impression of being energized by what I am doing, I truly will be.  But I know very well that it won't come easy, and it won't come fast.  Already I sense a small shift in it, the strength needed to push myself through each day seems to be getting lighter.  Perhaps it is just that I have become stronger and the burden hasn't changed, or perhaps the burden really is getting a little lighter as well.  

Keep on pushing on folks, the tunnel may be long, but I see a light out there, and I am going to reach it.  And if you have to paint the smile on and use all your strength to drive through the day, then do it, the burden will lighten with time. 

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Comment by Heidi57 on February 21, 2019 at 9:33am

My husband, Gord, of 42,years passed away Sept. 22/18.  I have been the one who wore the "mask (or makeup)" of "I'm okay" when I wasn't and was battling anxiety and depression.  While I finally got the help I needed back in my teens in my mid '50s I still wear the ok mask and now again I wear the "I'm doing ok" when I'm not.  I find I have to console others and it's exhausting.  I see their need so then I put my own aside to deal with theirs.  I have a few very close friends of long standing (I only have 34 friends on Facebook and most of them are family) so I don't have a lot of places to go but with them I can just breathe and cry and smile with them of our memories of Gord.  I've made the decision to sell the house and buy a condo - while I'm doing it alone this was our joint plan for 2019 so I have no anxiety about choosing to continue with our plans I'm just overwhelmed with having to do it without Gord and not having him there to make it our new home.  Come June or July I will be stepping in to a new place that won't feel like home for a very long time.  

Comment by DIVA70 on January 17, 2019 at 4:00pm

Fake it until you become it! Maybe one day I can look back on this time in my life and sigh a sigh of relief. One of the things I have never liked are fake people... my husband was the same way. I had to laugh out loud when she talked about how you and your wife felt about make-up. It reminded me of the only personal request my husband made as we were planning our wedding....he requested I not wear a wig.....he said he loved me just the way I was and that included my hair....it made me love him even more......and that's how he was all through our marriage....a few extra pounds here and there never dampened his love. Now I am the one putting on a façade. Before I walk out the door to join family or friends I remind myself to put on a smile and I carefully rehearse my lines....'Yes, God is good all the time. I'm doing okay. I know I have so much to be thankful for....woke up this morning with a smile....and on and on and on." Until I walk back in the house and crawl into my empty bed and start to cry. One former neighbor and friend saw me at a concert and the first thing she said was how strong I was. I wanted to scream I'm not strong. Can't you see this is an act! But I smiled and thanked her for her prayers. Thank you Tony for being so real and authentic. That's what I like about this site. You can say what you really feel and know that there are others who get where you're coming from. Believe me, I don't feel sorry for myself. I had what so many long for in a marriage....and that's not to say it was perfect but like fine wine we mellowed over time until we were perfected. So I'm going to keep taking it one day at a time and fake it until I become it!

Comment by sis on January 16, 2019 at 6:47am

Tony, I love reading your blog. You have a way with the words to help me spit out the feelings. I, too, put on what I call "my smile mask" when I am going to be around people. If I don't feel I can wear it, I just don't go out. I'm retired so I have that choice, although I'm not made to face things I'm not comfortable with. I've lowered the pressure on myself and take each day one hour at a time. I seem to be able to handle that, so I may move slow but if I can get something done each hour I'm ok with it. God Bless and thank you for your blog.

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