In my interpersonal communications course, I have been teaching about the face negotiation theory. You know the one right? The one that birthed the expression, “Saving face” or “about face”. This idea that we have faces for people, places and times. I remember being holed up in my bedroom after recovering from my surgery and doing in depth grade work on face and I immediately thought of this picture.
This is a picture that took me four years to actually look at. It was the holidays. My girls were so tiny. We were moving my husband’s grandma from one part of a nursing home to another. Her health was declining. We were in her apartment to go through her things. She had to pair down on a lot of her possessions. My husband’s aunt snapped it because she got a new camera and I didn’t want it taken at all because I was just sure of the absolute truth it would hold and capture.
One thing was missing. My guy. My guy who just that day was released from the hospital. I was two days into barely understanding my life had just changed in the most significant manner. I have always been good at just absorbing hardships, but not this time. I just spent the previous four days conquering every single fear I ever possibly held. I saw my husband on his knees begging to end it all. The problem with that is I had no idea why and what was really going on. I then left my tiny young children alone in my home in the middle of the night to drive my husband in a blizzard to the hospital. The next four days were inexplicably the hardest I have ever encountered. I went from taxi mom to wife beside hospital bed to cell phone talking/advocating for a husband who couldn’t speak.
And seeing that paragraph there and summing these transitional weeks into a paragraph does no justice for what that “face” is hiding. The simple act of helping an elderly woman “pair down” felt impossible and very last thing I wanted to worry about. My three reasons for being there and doing that were my daughters. I didn’t want them to know the world of pain I was in. The same sentiment went toward my husband’s family. My mother in law likely the only one who knew most of it because I needed to lean on someone that loves him as much as I do.
But I bring this image up now because I would never look at this picture. It has been on my fridge since that night and the four years since. I have maybe looked at three times sense and each time I did I couldn’t even look that woman in the eye because to me she is everything I am not. I barely recognize her.
I get so frustrated with myself now because I get all twisted up over the inability of public education to adapt themselves to my career path. College instructors in high school classrooms. Or I get flustered about the way system works to keep kids where they want them based on things that have little to no control over. I feel so powerless.
Then that woman there, she had power and she was me but I feel so disconnected from her and yes I know that is how survival works. I was in survival mode. I did it because I had no option. But my life isn’t much different now. Trigeminal neuralgia is a part of my daily existence, but I never talk about it. My life changed so dramatically that is no longer my new normal, but my normal.
But that woman, she could conquer mountains. She loved her people so fiercely and fully and powerfully that she literally could have moved heaven, earth, a large car all before 9am. But now, I forget my kiddos spelling stuff. Or my husband’s parent teacher conference schedule.
I have to keep reminding myself that that face is there. It is who I see in the mirror every single day. This is not some existential crisis or me taking myself back. But what this is me revisiting a promise I made to myself and I am sure if I looked hard enough in my archives I would find that actual written promise of it. But I told myself I would never forget what felt important and my very precise ability to cut through the crap and get to the heart of what matters.
As the days and years pass I try and remember that face and the ability that comes with that face because I need her. We all need her. She gets it done and doesn’t sit and complain about the obstacles. There are ALWAYS obstacles. ALWAYS….ALWAYS and I have ALWAYS moved passed them.
No infinite wisdom here from MR. Instead, a reminder that we all have that face even if we don’t feel like it. We are inherently meant to and equipped with the will to do and be better than who we currently are.