On Smiling Through Pain

Same camera, same view, different chemistry. Sometimes it's the stuff we can't see that changes our perspective. -- The Building of Eternity, Palm Mortuary, Downtown Las Vegas

Same camera, same view, different chemistry. Sometimes it’s the stuff on the inside that changes our perspective. — The Building of Eternity, Palm Mortuary, Downtown Las Vegas

“Andrea, you can’t just smile your way through this one.”

(This was Andrew two weeks ago, when a collection of my family members were going through various health-related tests and catastrophes, and my fish’s eyeball was popping out of his head.)

“Andrea, when I came out to visit last time, your brother-in-law had just died and you didn’t say anything about it.”

(I’m paraphrasing Brian here, but you get it.)

“Andrea, you’re always smiling. I’ve never seen you unhappy…do you even swear?”

(Spoken by every person who has met me during the last ten years.)

 ***

Contrary to what you’ve just read, I believe I am improving when it comes to expressing myself in a more diverse fashion. Writing publicly about the personal has played a big part in this evolution: dipping a toe here and there periodically, then jumping in with both feet just last year. It’s cathartic, it’s important, and it’s why I branched out and started this goofy personal blog/photography project. I need to challenge myself to go and do. Frequently.

I enjoy working on my projects, but I also acknowledge that keeping busy can be used as a method of distraction. The reasons as to why you keep busy (and what you’re distracting yourself from) are your business, but I’ll share mine:

  • I am easily overcome by negative thoughts related to sloth and consumption. I feel compelled to create new content so I don’t feel like a waste of space and a drain on society.
  • I’m gonna die. You’re gonna die. Dead and gone forever. But the illusion of immortality is so goddamned seductive!
  • Somebody you know and love has died, or is gonna die. Maybe soon, maybe suddenly. And you are gonna miss them with all of your being. This is intense and heavy shit that breaks people, and I have people who depend on me, so I have to keep doing.
  • Time. Is. Running. Out.

I also fall into the category of people who will not unload a 15 minute laundry list of life’s nut knockers on anybody who casually throws out a “how are you?”. I’m just not comfortable with this because:

  • We all know that person who does it, and it usually involves an ex-mate or a crappy job situation that they just can’t seem to get over. As much as we try to sympathize or offer solutions, the song remains the same…for the next six years. Perhaps it gets to the point where we stop asking about the state of this person’s mental health, because they don’t seem to be making any progress, and the pity party that they throw for themselves whenever they have a captive audience at their disposal is sadder than a vegan at a Louisiana barbecue.
  • Maybe you’re sitting in my office about to enjoy a spa service. This is your time, and I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, even if we’re friends and would normally discuss this stuff over lunch.
  • Maybe you’re in Vegas on vacation. I don’t want to burden you with my issues when you’re on a fucking vacation.
  • Maybe I’ve been embodying a tightly-wound emotional H-bomb for days — walking the razor’s edge between keeping my composure while operating within an acceptable range of functionality and causing a nuclear event that Dr. Manhattan couldn’t even see coming. Sometimes thinning that veil even the tiniest bit is all it takes for the klaxons to sound and wartime Kleenex rationing to go into effect. And sometimes that scares me.

This can be frustrating for the earnest asker, I know. I’ve been the earnest asker! And I want to know or I wouldn’t ask! And I want you to trust me, in this matter and in everything! Because I care! (Does this mean we have a trust issue on our hands now? Shit.)

I’m still finding my way around this grief thing. It’s been almost 15 months since our family became one of those families – the families that lose one of their own to suicide – and I have no idea how this timeline is supposed to play out. We are all still so heartbroken and I have obligations: to keep an eye on those that I can, and to take care of them as best I can. I do my best and sometimes I fear that my best isn’t good enough.

I know that I’m deeply loved by numerous supportive individuals who care about me even if I don’t always verbally share my burden with them. People, please know that this knowledge has at times been the only thing I’ve had to light my way on darker days. You assist me in bearing the weight, whether your hernias realize it or not. You are important and appreciated. Thank you.

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