Dying/smiling inside, smiling/dying outside
My friend Guff sent me a cartoon in four frames. The first frame shows a corpse-like body sitting up in bed. Next, the corpse-like body is standing in front of a closet filled with what look to be identical people suits. In the third frame, the copse-like body is zipping itself into the grinning exterior shell. Finally, in the last frame, the grinning exterior is walking around the world among other overly-grinning creatures.
I asked Guff if this represents him, if this is how he feels.
His response? Sometimes.
A quick Internet search of the image he sent yielded the title of it: “dying inside, smiling outside.”
It led us to a discussion about the opposite: we know people who pretend to be miserable, but are actually quite happy.
Guff noted that people tend to get attention for being miserable, whereas they don’t get attention for being happy.
Isn’t that an odd thing?
If you had your choice, which would you choose?
- Miserable on the inside and happy outside – not getting attention
- Happy on the inside and miserable on the outside – getting attention
- Happy on the inside but not noticed by others
After some more discussion, we decided that we would rather be happy when we are happy and miserable when we are miserable – regardless of how other people saw us.
Most folks I know are not comfortable with their anger and don’t like being angry. (I know a few folks who seem a bit too comfortable with being angry. I tend not to spend a lot of time with those people.) On a similar note, few people want to deal with their sadness. They’d rather bury it, cover it up, or drown it in foods, television shows, or other quick-fix distractions. Many people — perhaps you are one of them — will do almost anything to avoid sadness, anger, or other unpleasant emotions.
But it’s impossible to live a life without anger or sadness. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to completely avoid either one. These are natural human emotions that will always come and go, whether we like it or not — unless, of course, we are depressed and feel nothing.
We may find ourselves thinking we oughtn’t feel angry when we’re angry or we oughtn’t feel sad when we’re sad. This is just plain wrong.
A spiritually healthy life includes all aspects of life. Even the ones we don’t necessarily like.
When I’m angry or upset, I often tell myself that I shouldn’t be.
And I know I’m not alone.
So many of us commit spiritual-religious violence to ourselves when we tell ourselves that we ought not feel the exact way that we are currently feeling.
What if, instead of berating ourselves, we all heard compassionate voices telling us that it is all right for us to feel exactly as we feel?
There’s a Cat Stevens song, If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh-1Lag3BV8> that encourages us to simply honor what we are experiencing. If we feel something, it’s probably OK for us to feel that way.
And one of my wife Jane’s favorite routines from Laugh In was Jo Anne Worley singing, “When you are down and out, sometimes, you need to shout… ‘I’m down and out!’”
You help nobody by pretending not to be you where you are. It’s when we pretend to be something we’re not that we become sick.
This week’s #wisdom_biscuit: Be spiritually and religiously “clean.” When life hands you lemons, have lemons. Don’t turn that frown upside down! Be who you are, where you are.