A friend of mine is facing a challenge this holiday season: a sick family member. On his Facebook page, he apologized in advance for not being himself during the time of year he usually loves so much. Of course those who know him and love him understand; it’s hard to be holly-jolly when your heart is full of fear. I’m sure many of you have experienced a similar feeling of apprehension, realizing you are expected to act a certain way and feel certain emotions – and knowing you simply can not do it.
I have maintained a reputation throughout most of my life of being a rather positive person. While on my own I often drift into self-recrimination and broodiness, I place a great value on remaining cheerful for family, bosses, coworkers, employees, clients … well, everyone. We all have a role to play, and mine is generally that of comic relief, always seeing something amusing or whimsical or absurd in any situation. It helps me cope, and it buoys up those around me.
But a problem arises when those around me come to expect it; come quite near demanding it. Associates frequently complimented me on my near-constant smile. The same people were puzzled and alarmed when they did not see that smile. Some would inquire as to the reason, and I might confide – or not – depending on the person and the circumstance. But what surprised and appalled me were those who actually got angry at me. They required me to act happy, or else they could not.
We are a reactionary species. I understand that people accustomed to my cheerfulness felt let down because their answering smile depended upon mine.
But it’s a little disconcerting to feel that pressure.
We are all affected by the moods of those around us. This morning I went from cheery to irritated when my youngest gave me a hassle about what she wished to wear. I went back into my bedroom, kissed my husband, and murmured to him, “Well, I was in a good mood when I woke up.” But really, no sooner had I spoken than I realized how foolish that was. I’m a product of the internet, and when I say things like that, a thousand memes float into my brain: “I can’t change my circumstances but I can change my reaction” … “I am the deciding factor” … “I will not allow negative people to ruin my day” … All of them with a beach scene in the background. And so I headed back out with a smile on my face to deal with the great “Pink Dress or Pink Corduroys Controversy” of
2015 December this week.
If I don’t wish to be held accountable for other people’s happiness, then in turn, I must be accountable for my own. And it follows in a perfect circle that if I take responsibility for my own feelings, so must you.
Positive people, you do not always need to be a beacon of light for everyone else. You have permission to be negative. You have permission to cry, and rage, and mope, and panic, and frown.
You have permission to be human.
photo: wiki commons; public usage