I am just about totally unqualified for anything I do in this world. As a child, I taught myself to read, to cook, to type (with two fingers, the ridiculous method I still use). I received no formal training in writing, acting, or church work. I married my first boyfriend at age 20, with no experience whatsoever in being out on my own. And parenting? Forget about it! I remember the many bouts of postpartum weeping (me and the babies) as I frantically tore through my copies of Dr. Spock and Penelope Leach for advice. That the kids turned out well is a miracle for which I take very little credit.
For so many years, I plastered a big smile on my face and faked my way through life, ignoring physical ailments and mental illness alike as I pretended to have it all figured out. Even now, at age 57, when you’d think I’d know better, I am still a master of disguise. Ask my psychiatrist how I’m feeling on my current dosage of meds. He will probably say I’m doing great, when in reality I hate my numbness and lack of emotions. Heck, I recently walked around for four months with a torn rotator cuff and denied the pain!
There is value to faking it sometimes, I believe. Steve’s dad used to say that when people asked him how he was he always answered “fine” because that’s what everyone wanted to hear. We all have our miseries; do we really need to bring each other down by complaining about them? And I have definitely experienced times when the false impression I’ve given of being happy has eventually morphed into the real thing.
So now here I am, on the verge of another role to play—that of grandma. I am genuinely thrilled for Ya-Jhu and Sheridan, and am quite sure they will make fantastic parents. I feel excited and a bit scared about this new little one coming into the world. I have no idea what kind of grandparent I will be, and once again feel as if I’ll be faking it, at least at first. Will I be helpful? Hopefully. Will I spoil the baby? Probably. Will I have the energy to really participate in his or her daily life in a positive way? Who knows, but I will definitely give it my best shot.
And if someday my precious grandchild asks me for advice about living, I will say that we none of us are ever really prepared, ever feel truly adequate for all of life’s challenges. Even with a lot more training than I had. I think that’s a secret we all carry inside of us: that we’re pretending every day. Smiling when we don’t feel like smiling. We need to keep on keeping on through the tough times, and fake it till we make it. Because God knows we’re trying, every one of us. And maybe trying is the best any of us can do.