by Elise Seyfried
I am just about totally unqualified for anything I do in this world. As a child, I taught myself to read, cook and 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 post-partum weeping (me and the babies) as I frantically tore through my copies of Dr. Spock and Penelope Leach for advice.
The realization that I am a bit of a fraud was brought home to me again over Thanksgiving weekend. Our son Evan had emailed the family and suggested a new activity: we would each deliver a five-minute speech teaching the others about some subject we knew well. While the others had choices of things they could instruct us about (music, history, the economy, etc.), I was totally stumped. Seems I don’t really know how anything works and, truth be told, am not that curious to find out. I ended up sharing my tips for delivering a children’s sermon, but my presentation was kind of lame.
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 months and months with a torn rotator cuff and denied the pain!
There is value to faking it sometimes, I believe. My husband 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? Why not just pretend everything is A-OK? 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, with a new role to play — that of grandma. I am genuinely thrilled for my son Sheridan and daughter-in-law Ya-Jhu, and it is a joy to see how tenderly they care for little Aiden. I feel excited and a bit scared about this new little one who has come into the world. I never prepared myself for grandparenthood at all, and once again I felt as if I were faking it, at least at first. Am I being helpful? Hopefully. Am I spoiling the baby? Probably. Will I have the energy down the road to really participate in his daily life in a positive way? Who knows? But I will definitely give it my best shot.
And if someday my grandchild asks me for advice about living, I will say that not one of us is ever really prepared, ever feels 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.