I'm pretty sure my yoga teacher has had a nervous breakdown. There's an odd immutability to his smile, a smile that never wavers, never gets bigger or smaller depending on circumstance. An air stewardess smile. He has a manner that cries out 'cheerful', 'life is fabulous', and eyes that are just a little too bright, a little too sparkly.
Or maybe that's just what happiness and inner peace look like and I'm just to English too realize.
I had a maths teacher with the same kind of look when I was in the sixth form, and he had had a nervous breakdown. His was the same plastic smile, the haunted eyes that said 'I've been there and what I saw will never leave me'.
I'm not saying I'm about to have a complete mental collapse (not right now, I've just made a cup of tea), but I'm becoming more aware of the masks people put up, and the hundred different metaphors we use for it. Serene as a swan on the top, paddling like a mother-fucker down below, stiff upper lip, I'm alright Jack, putting a brave face on things. I've just had a letter from my Nanna admitting to a long wintery depression and that coupled with our nuclear-mushroom cloud of a mortgage and the economy in general have made me to want to put the mask down and come clean.
I've been longing to write that post, the one about how we so nearly didn't make it with the condo conversion project we're in the middle of. I so desperately want to be on the other side right now, the 'phew, things looked really bleak there for a moment, thank the Lord everything turned out just fine' side. Right now I spend 20% of my time being absurdly excited about the future, about the opportunities this project will afford us, about how lucky we are to have been pointed in the right direction by a mentor who told us absolutely no to buying a condo 3 years ago (thankyou, thankyou, thankyou). I spend 60% of my time keeping my fingers crossed, slapping a fake smile on my face, wishing for the best, worrying for the worst, and trying to just preoccupy myself with the small joys of life. I spend the remaining 20% of the time absolutely paralyzed by fear. As you can imagine, that's making for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
I can still see a future in which we complete this project, and sail on thankful that we're one of the few people to have been lucky and well-advised enough to weather this recession and come out on top. I still really think that'll happen. Even when I read the Economist. I still think I'll be writing that 'wow, things looked a little thin there for a while but I can't believe our good fortune' post. As a very wise friend said, 'it's always darkest before the dawn'. To that I feel like adding, you just have to have faith that there will be a dawn.
It is absolutely not the done thing to admit defeat over here. I know it's perceived as very British not to moan, to keep a stiff upper lip etc, but it is quintessentially American to be up shit creek and still maintain the appearance of a completely successful and optimized lifestyle. If you can afford a nice car you should be driving a nice car, if you can make your smile brighter and whiter you should do it. It is completely unfathomable to the American psyche to not try and strive for the best and to appear like you're on the up and up. I suppose this post is me saying, this is real, this is honest and for the record I was really scared. I know things could be a hundred times worse. I only have to look as far as my friends to realize what a lot of class it takes to keep smiling while the world repeatedly screws you over. This is not intended to be a pity post. I do realize that in the grand scheme of things my life is a cake-walk. In all honesty my most pressing fear right now is that Anna will wake up before I've had chance to finish writing this. I suppose I'm just trying to admit the fear of the unknown, that it's hard to keep smiling when you're facing so much uncertainty.
I knew I was starting to lose it when we had a contractor (a builder) over to give us a bid for the renovations, and I literally had to stop myself asking 'how do you feel about this project, what's your gut feeling, are we going to make it?'. I'm sure he would have looked at me and said 'somebody get this chick outta here'.
This post doesn't have a tidy ending, because right now there doesn't appear to be an ending. Although I did just ask the Magic 8 Ball if we were going to make it and it said:
"My sources say no"