“All the world’s a stage and [we] are merely players”. It’s true. Actors are pretending to cry while we hold back our tears. The professional performers imitate all the parts of life that we try not to present to the world: intoxication, envy, jealousy, frustrations of life. We act in our real lives all the time. Does this make us inauthentic? When we hold back our feelings, does it create a phony story of our lives? Today we write a slice of our lives, but should we mention that we hide ourselves from others too many times in our story.
Which makes a better story? The crushing anxiety that everything will fall apart. Is my job secure for another 15 years so I can make my mortgage payment every month? We just bought a house in the middle of a pandemic. Food needs to be on the table for my family. Shortages are occurring because of the realities of the worldwide disaster. My child will need braces and she’ll want to go to college. Will my finances cover our housing and all the extras for the years to come? These uncertainties stay hidden behind forged smiles.
We scam our friends into thinking we are not worried about the cancer coming back.”Oh you were so strong during your treatments; we weren’t worried” is the reason I was given as I endured chemo and radiation in isolation. They don’t want to hear any bad news; I convince myself. My many checks are fine. No worries. In reality, the doctors cannot transition to the yearly screenings from biannual ones quiet yet. They need to “monitor”. This part of the story is buried behind laughter during the weekly Zoom calls.
George Clooney and Meryl Streep force out tears on the big screen. We mightily hold them in. While reading the climax of a book to my students last week, with all my strength, I tried to see through the tears. I don’t think they heard the quiver in my voice or noticed how I had to subtly slow my reading to act my way through it. Watching a feel good movie with my family two weekends ago, I earnestly fought back any tears escaping my overflowing eyes. A quick wipe to my face as no one was looking. I appeared emotionless as the main character was sentimentally reunited with his long lost family.
There are a multitude of these theatrics throughout all of our lives. Right? We don’t share our superficial outrages so as not to rock the boat. Jealousies are not revealed to preserve friendships. While feeling a little tipsy, we attempt to walk the straight line to keep the party going. Fake smiles and laughter are a part of most of our narratives. We impersonate well adjusted and satisfied players on our stages. Is this a better autobiography? Deceiving others about how we feel? Just feel, even if you think it is amiss. A great story makes us feel all emotions. They have laughter and tears, successes and tragedies. The yin and yang in our stories is that you cannot appreciate the good without the bad. We should share that with the other players in our lives rather than pretend. Our story will not be sincere and that is the real tragedy. Right?