“The single most clever thing about a smile is how well it can hide sadness.”
Smiles and laughter can hide sadness, suffering, and pain immensely well. It always amazed me at how well.
First, take chronic pain for example. With chronic pain, you have to function in daily life with pain. So you do. This means tolerating and enduring a certain amount of pain all the time. And you can smile and laugh while in pain. Yet, people never could seem to fathom this. That it was possible to smile and laugh and be in pain at the same time. It has to do with pain behaviors and how those are not pain behaviors. How people with chronic pain have long since learned to mask their pain behaviors. Long since learned to mask their pain. Long since learned to endure and tolerate a certain amount of pain. Not to say, that some levels we cannot simply endure and tolerate, but we have our levels we can mask quite well. This issue with typical pain behaviors lacking and normal behaviors such as laughter and smiles being there instead seems impossible. But it is indeed possible. Makes the pain less readily seen and understood. Makes it diminished in the eyes of others.
Pain leads to suffering. All pain comes with a level of suffering because pain brings with it a level of emotional reaction. We mask the suffering behind smiles for many reasons. Most often because we do not want loved ones to see the depth of our suffering. We do not want anyone to see the depth of our suffering. We feel like we might drown in the depth of our suffering. Words cannot even breach it if we tried to.
Depression can add another layer to this. Or it can, in fact, be its own layer. I have in my time suffered from depression. It is very isolating. It consumes your perception of reality and doesn’t ever give you a break. It shadows your every thought. You can mask it with smiles and laughter, that feel fake and hallow to you, but no one ever notices they are different. Empty. The difference is that depression is not sadness. It is something that swallows sadness. It is the numbness that follows all emotion.
Yes, it amazes me what we hide behind our smiles, so well. Our facades. In a way making ourselves more invisible with our invisible disabilities. But words can fail us sometimes. Words seem insufficient at times.
I often find writing to be a way to express myself the truest of all forms. Sometimes in poetry. Sometimes on this blog. I think it is productive to find methods to communicate our emotions and suffering in different ways. At least to get it out. Once you get it out… you find a bit of peace inside. You can’t contain everything behind a smile. A mask.