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.