I’ve been thinking a lot recently about perception. Too many people are willing to accept their perception of a situation as reality. They take one snippet of time and create a scenario around it and call it “truth”. It happens to politicians, it happens to celebrities, and it happens to us “regular” people, too.
My husband used to lecture me every time I complained about an unflattering picture. He would tell me that a photograph only shows one tiny moment in time, and sometimes that particular moment wasn’t ideal. He would say “that is not what you look like. That is not what I see when I look at you.”
He used to complain when this same concept worked in reverse. There are people who look fantastic in pictures, and he would talk about the lighting and the angle and other photographic “tricks”. They can be deceptive. Sometimes this deception is unintentional and other times it’s a calculated move.
I’m an enigma. My husband used to simply call me “nuts”. I’m an extremely shy and sensitive person, but sometimes come across as cold. I’m open, yet reserved. More recently, I’m hurting yet trying to stay positive. And I feel as though it might be sending the “wrong” message. Not wrong as in inappropriate, just wrong as in incorrect.
There are some people in my life who misinterpret my intentional positivity as callous and heartless behavior. As if by smiling, I’m not grieving. As if I’m not sad enough. Who decides what the correct amount of grief is? Who determines the best way to show it?
They don’t seem to realize that just because I don’t show the world my anguish and heartache every minute of every day doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s a brave face I put on – for my children, for the outside world, for myself. It is my moment in time, but it is not what I truly look like. This is my intentional mendacity.*
But there are people who use false illusions of grief to show the world how distraught they are, as if by faking a sadness they don’t truly feel, they will gain the proper amount of sympathy from those around them. These are the same people who then point fingers at others like me who choose to face the world with a brave face, hoping against hope that the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality works for situations such as these, as well. They whisper behind their hands about how shameful it is that we’re not sad enough. This is their intentional mendacity, an entirely different intent.
Although I try to keep a positive tone to my blog, sometimes my mask slips here or there, and my true misery and despair peek through. My initial thought is to quickly fix it and hope no one saw – delete all the negative because there’s too much of it in the world already. But then I think, this is real. This pain is genuine and raw and will likely remain so for a very long time. Even though I can choose to be hopeful and optimistic, it doesn’t diminish my sorrow. It’s not my responsibility to try to prove to anyone that my suffering is genuine, and it’s not my place to whisper that anyone else’s isn’t.
Though I look for the silver lining, I still feel the rain. And if you see me smiling, I still feel the pain.
* – Side note: My husband and I have loved the word “mendacity” from the first moment we heard it in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Every now and then we would shout it at one another in our best Burl Ives’ impression when we believed we were being told an “untruth”. It’s a great word and I think it’s time to bring it back.
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