There is a plant by our kitchen window. I bought it for my parents a few months ago, to thank them for letting me have a party for my birthday. It’s some kind of lily, I think. I had never seen anything like it. Its petals were purple, when it had flowers. But now it is just sick. Its stems are bending under the stress of their own weight. They bend until they bruise, and sometimes until they tear. All it needs is something to support its weight. We all keep thinking this, and yet we still walk by it several times a day, and watch it struggle on.
It is easy to see with a plant, when it is broken, when it needs help, when you are at risk of losing its beauty for ever and being left with a dry husk sat in a pot. With people it is much harder. We bend and break and bruise inside, we buckle under the weight of our emotions, over thoughts that we created. But at the same time, we smile. And that is all it takes to mask how we really feel. The people around us think we are ok. And what we really want, what we really hope, is that somehow somebody will see through the smile, that somebody will see the emotion in our eyes and just be there.
It takes a lot of bravery to stop smiling, to take off the mask that you learn to hide behind and let people see what is really going on. And then they ask questions like what’s up? and you don’t know how to answer. Quite often, at this point, people force a smile and say, nothing, don’t worry. Because sometimes there is no clear reason for our sadness (or whatever you want to call it)
For example, today. I stood there, and I ironed (for two hours. Most. Boring. Thing. Ever) and my mind wasn’t thinking of anything other than pressing the creases out of my mum’s dress. But I was trying not to cry. And I mean, I really had to put in a ridiculous amount of effort to hold back tears. Which was surprising for multiple reasons, because a) I don’t like to cry, so I usually need a very good reason, (or several very bad reasons if you want to look at it that way) to let tears fall; b) I had no reason to cry. None whatsoever. I didn’t feel particularly well, but that’s normal, and I certainly didn’t feel unwell enough to let it get to me; c) I was ironing. Last time I checked there was nothing sad about ironing.
It confused me, and then it frustrated me, this sudden and rather unexpected urge to cry. Maybe they were the tears that I could so easily have spilled last night. Maybe if I let them fall, my family might understand how I feel. Because people seem to need great, obvious shows of emotion before they can understand how each other feel. We look for a smile, or a tear, or a laugh; we look for an obvious bend or break in a person’s emotional state, we look for an obvious cause. And we seem to stop there. We settle for that. And the people we love continue to crumble before our eyes. Until we have no way of fixing them.
So smiling when it is the last thing that you feel like doing, actually helps nobody. It doesn’t protect the people you love, because eventually the smile slips, and they wonder how on earth they didn’t see how you felt. And for the time that people believe the smile, you have to carry on alone. You bend under the weight of your own feelings, until you bruise and break, you lose your petals.
(Of course, I put on a smile and then curled up on my bed and read a book. And now suddenly it’s half past five… So I slept away my whole afternoon again. Partly because being asleep was better than being awake, and partly because, for various medical reasons, I have absolutely no energy lately. Knowing the right thing and actually doing it are two very separate issues.)
Step three to getting out of a rut in life:
Don’t take the easy options, take the right ones. It might feel like the wrong thing to do, it is a lot harder than it sounds, and its not something you’ll be able to do instantly. (You’re stuck in a rut for goodness sake, if it was that easy to just change the way you work, there would be no rut in the first place) But the harder you work at something, the greater the sense of achievement when you succeed at it.