Faking It Until I Make It

Artwork by Christian Schloe

This saying can be an actual way of life in more ways than we realize. In the current climate we are all living in, all of us are getting out of bed everyday and putting one foot in front of the other when we’re really not feeling up to the task. We’re doing our jobs, being a spouse, taking care of our homes, paying our bills, parenting, socializing (even if that may look different now), grocery shopping, and then putting our heads on the pillow to go to sleep and do it all again the very next day. Mixed in with those adult tasks and responsibilities are our emotions. On a normal day, we can do these tasks without thinking twice, the emotions are even keeled, we get done what we need to get done and feel a sense of satisfaction when the day is done. But in the now, if none of us are having normal days, if at every turn another new huge announcement that significantly impacts our life blares at us, what is that doing to our nervous system? Then add trying to stuff down those feelings to get through the day. Fight or flight mode must be in some kind of obnoxious overdrive. Which begs the question – what does completing each of these every day responsibilities look like, feel like, and become like? It all feels just a little…overwhelming.

Let’s take it to another level for a minute. So we feel overwhelmed. But who do we show that face of overwhelm to? Likely the people under our roof know and feel that version of us, maybe a few in our close knit circle, but it’s highly doubtful we’re showing our overwhelm to outsiders. God only knows what kind of overwhelm they’re dealing with.

Instead, we put one foot in front of the other, and we fake it. We tell our brain that everything will be OK, everything is OK, until eventually, our walking falls in step with where it used to be and the emotions that feel like a metal jacket drift away. You can’t mope around on a conference call or throw a tantrum in front of your kids because you don’t feel like making dinner. We do our best Meryl Streep or Brad Pitt acting job to convince others we’re “fine” and to keep life feeling normal when it’s spinning out of control.

I’m also noticing we try to focus on the positive in this life right now and post our highlight reels on Instagram and Facebook. Everyone’s thinking: I can’t take one more negative thing right now. We’re grasping for happy. And because I’m one of those graspers, I’m begging you to please keep posting your life’s best moments. I want to have a front row seat to all that goodness. This is what we need right now-some semblance of normalcy and laughter and knowing that it’s OK if people are still having some fun. It’s the plutonium to our flux capacitors-no lie. The news shows a starkly different picture these days: fear, panic, doom, and gloom. Here’s a news flash-that’s not the only thing going on.

Always remember the truth lies somewhere in the middle-especially when it comes to the news. Recently, I was on the news, and got to experience first hand how a narrative can change depending on how the wind blows. The news story took something I was doing that was positive for working parents and shifted the narrative ever so slightly, then blended it with another clip from the town over to make it look like I was this other person’s opposition. It made the story different and it made me wonder how much this goes on every day with everything we see on the news. Boiled down, this negative loop affects our psyche, that is why I’m all about your highlight reel on social media. These positive images cancel out the negative loop for me.

Right now, everywhere, there is a lot of love, a lot of family time, local trips, first days of school, babies being born, birthdays being celebrated, and a lot of appreciation for life going on. I am trying to remember and focus on that.

Before writing this, I thought about writing a blog post that was a fun or interesting story from my past. I wanted to write something so far off the topic of the current state of the world. Because, honestly, who wants to keep reading about all the same morbid stuff? Instead I’m choosing to write about how 2020 brought me to my knees, and how I will fake it until I make it back on my feet again. And you bet your ass I’m in the process of posting my favorite pictures from this summer with my family and friends. If I don’t try to be happy and focus on all the amazingness in my life, I will come undone. Believe me, I came within inches just this past July, and the curveballs of life continue to fly my direction.

I’ve had a summer where I put a smile on my face but was shattered underneath. A lifelong relationship near and dear to me abruptly and shockingly ended. It will never sit right with me and continues to baffle me. It’s that special kind of ache that burrows into your chest. The kind of heartache you can only get from someone you loved so deeply that it’s physical, mental, and emotional all at once. But during that experience, I got up every day, and put on my unwavering happy poker face, perfected from the days of my youth. When the time came each day to take that face off, I would crumple to those who would listen. Eventually, after a month or so, the sadness let up a notch, and I got through a day, then two, then a week, without crying.

The one thing I know for sure is I am not alone in what I wrote above. There are millions of people right now wondering how they will face the day after having found out someone they know is very ill, or has just passed away, they’ve lost their job, been evicted from their home, are moving to a new town; away from a city they’ve called home for so long, are deciding whether or not to close their business, are calling it quits on their marriage, had to cancel their wedding, are worried for their child’s mental health, are struggling to become pregnant, were just diagnosed with cancer, have just found out they have to put down their pet, have no idea how they will keep their job and teach their child, and so on and so forth.

Unique and common tragedies are happening every minute. People are feeling worried, anxious, scared, sad, angry while they go about life’s adulting demands. We paint on smiles to our customers, extend a listening ear to our friends who may be going through something worse, hug and cheer on our crying child while fighting back our own stinging tears, agree egregiously to that next work project, laugh too hard at something, and change the tone in our voice so that no one can tell anything is wrong. This is what we all do. There are personal problems on top of world problems, just as there has always been. We compartmentalize and pretend so we can carry on. It’s a type of survival.

I’ve decided to keep this one short and to the point- some recent advice from my mother. When I asked her if she reads my blogs she sighs and tells me, “No, they are just way too long!” So I’ll get right to the point here.

What I hope you gained from reading this is that showing up for our daily responsibilities when we least feel like it truly matters. I believe it helps our exhausted nervous systems as well. It’s a way of taking care of yourself, even though it feels strange to walk through the day with an uncomfortable invisible costume.

Having a plan, I’ve found, really helps. Plan something to look forward to and take lots of pictures. Post your experience on social media knowing you are giving someone like me a flicker of happy in the hollow that’s there right now. I’m rooting for you and me to feel wholly good again. Let’s keep moving forward until we get there. Put one foot in front of the other even when you don’t feel like it at all.

Therapy is always helpful. I’m no stranger to it; it’s contributed to my self esteem in a major way and helped guide the negative voice within me to own that I am enough. If you’re considering therapy- hesitate no more.

I have to remind myself that growth requires feelings of discomfort. And once I am on the other side, I can look back and say, I see so clearly now why I needed to go through that.

Until then, while our eyes may look sad, and our smile is trickery, let us relish in the ups and downs of this life, for it is always teaching us.

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