Being a woman, I’m naturally schooled in the art of smile-despite- your-desire-to-inflict-violence-on-the-person-standing-before-you.
Example: My mother could throw out a litany of threats that would send any teen into a fetal position; that is, until the phone would ring. Then mom channeled her inner Queen Elizabeth, answering with a demure voice, saying, “Sanders’ residence, how can I help you?”
My fear and that terrible glint in her eyes were all that remained of those threats — until she hung up the phone.
It’s a gift, really — the ability to hide our feelings, to somehow channel faux sincerity while harboring true apathy. Makeup isn’t the only mask we slather on in the morning. I find genuine people, I dare say women, are hard to come by.
Simple questions like, “How are you today?” are supposed to be answered with an abrupt “Great” so the conversation can move on. When you dare to vent true emotions to a “foerend,” you get quickly shot down with a competing story — illustrating just how great you should be, and just how horrible life really is for the other.
I like it when people just stay quiet and let me complain. This explains why I’m surrounded with so many friends.
Sincerity is a powerful gift, one often undervalued in those we spend our days with. I know if I were to complain about the day I had — tears, dirt, laundry, worry, exhaustion —some would either try to top me or show 1 percent interest. Then there are those souls who forget their own troubles and take on your baggage with a thick layer of empathy.
Chelsey’s husband has been gone for almost a year, for the third time. Each night as she tucks in her two boys, a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, she has no idea what her husband is doing, where he is, and what kind of danger he might be in. Chelsey is a military spouse, like thousands of others who make it work as a solo act while their loved ones fight in Afghanistan.
She and I went to high school together, never really close, just a smile and wave in the hallway. Years later, we reconnected as I watched and learned how to be tough, set goals and delight in the small things, like the presence of my husband on a daily basis.
Trust me, when Brian piles clothes on our floor, cleans out under his toes, or encroaches on my bed space, I need a reminder that he could be on the other side of the world.
Chelsey meets the complaints of others with a smile and sincere words of encouragement. Never does she say, “Well, my husband was shipped out before the birth of our first son, was able to enjoy our newest for only two weeks, and now I only get to be with him via Skype before he dashes out to rescue the world. So who’s worse off?”
On her blog she writes:
“We feel so blessed to love one another so much that the distance is so painful. You wouldn’t miss someone that you didn’t love and cherish with all of your heart. We still joke and can finish each other’s sentences. I can hear his smile and tell by the tone of his voice when something is wrong. I am so blessed to wake up to the smiles of our children, to see his beautiful blue eyes in theirs. I am patiently waiting until we are blessed to all be together again. What a day that will be!”
There is a love story to rival Chelsey’s, and a person who rivals her goodness — my grandmother. Yes, I’m biased, but I’ve yet to meet a person who can say something nasty about my grandma. Sheron Musgrave is the epitome of sincerity. She’s never had to paint on a mask to hide her disgust because I’ve never seen it. I’ve tried. Why do you think I’ve written columns with the words “penis” and “breast”? Despite my potty mouth, I know she’ll call to tell me how proud she is.
My grandmother has been my rock as I venture into this sadistically beautiful world of motherhood. She held my hand through my postpartum depression, she watches my babies when I call in a “sick day,” and Grandma always listens to me break down every minute moment of my day without bringing up the fact she worked and raised five children — including a set of twins that would send any mother screaming for a straitjacket.
Somehow, Tom and Sheron have made it work for nearly 59 years, despite getting married, having children and living together. Listening to them is like watching a live Abbott and Costello routine perfected through the years.
For many of us, it’s second nature to pretend to care; some of us are even good at until we turn our backs to roll our eyes or hang up the phone. I try to live by the mantra WWSD — “What would Sheron do?”
She’d smile, pat your hand and remind you that tomorrow will be better.
Join Meg Sanders’ blog at www.hersutah.com.