The Value Of Being Fake

Conversation by jurek d

Image by jurek d.

Here in the United States, we place so much value on authenticity. Even though (or maybe it’s because) everybody walks around with some sort of public facade, we’re all ingrained with this sense that being fake is wrong.

Well, I’m realizing now that there’s value to being fake …

You may know what’s been going on with my mom over the past seven months now. (If not, you can catch up here.) Well, I’ll be upfront. This is tearing me up inside. On the one hand, I’m ready to start grieving for her and moving on with my life. But on the other hand, there’s something that feels callously inappropriate about grieving for someone who isn’t dead yet. And so, we continue in our limbo state, knowing that the odds of her ever waking up are virtually infinitesimal at this point, but also not being able to just let go.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. That was just the premise — the setup, if you will. Here’s the punchline …

Last night, Melissa and I went to our favorite steakhouse, Cowboy Star. When we’re there, we always sit at the chef’s counter, because we love watching the staff cook (and getting the occasional free sample). Over the several years now that we’ve been going there, we’ve gotten to know many of the kitchen staff pretty well. Which is to say, we recognize them and vice versa, we’re always excited to see them and vice versa (or so they appear to be when they see us — who knows, maybe they’re just being fake), and we always end up chatting with them as we eat and as they work.

Our conversation last night was as lighthearted as it always is. One of the guys asked us what’s new and how we were, and with no hesitation whatsoever, we answered, “Good! Nothing really new. How about you?” To that, he responded that he’s leaving Cowboy Star in September to take a job at a high-end restaurant in San Francisco called Quince (because Cowboy Star isn’t high-end enough? I dunno …). So then, we started chatting about how often we go up there and how we’ll definitely have to go and check it out next time we’re there.

All in all, it really was a fun conversation, and I wouldn’t even say that it was superficial by any definition of the word. I mean, it’s not like we were talking about the weather for two hours straight. We were actually talking about fairly substantial life stuff (for lack of a better descriptor).

Yet, through it all, I kept thinking about how fake we were being, because at no point did Melissa or I ever broach the topic about my mom. Nor did we have any desire to.

But here’s the thing. (And … okay, I guess you just got a lot more setup. Now, I’m finally getting to the punchline …)

The fakeness totally helped me. I walked out of the restaurant feeling pretty content, and I managed to carry that with me for the rest of the night. It made me remember that there’s a flip side to the value of authenticity. It’s the saying, “Fake it ’til you make it.”

And that’s what last night was for me. I faked being happy until it actually made me happy. It was only temporarily. But hey, I’m literally waiting for my mom to die. I’ll take any amount of fleeting happiness I can get.

Going to school to become a therapist while slogging through the process of grieving is … rough. I can’t use school as a distraction from my family woes, because school is all about learning to be more in tune with my own emotions, so that I can help others be more in tune with theirs. All school seems to do is to keep dunking my head into that writhing cesspool of anguish and sadness deep within my consciousness.

It’s a cesspool I’m sick of being continually dunked in, and being fake with the kitchen staff at a fancy steakhouse gave me just the temporary escape that I needed. I think there’s a lesson in that …

If life feels hopeless and sad, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that. In fact, we’re probably better off recognizing than ignoring it. At the same time, we don’t have to operate at only the extremes. Recognizing sadness doesn’t mean that we have to sit with it all the live-long day. Sometimes, it can help to ignore the sadness just for a while. Especially because ignoring it for a while can actually feel good.

Like with everything else I write about, I guess the key is balance. Don’t go overboard doing one thing or another. And that includes grieving (or whatever it is that we would call what I’m doing right now for my mom).

So hey, anyone wanna chat about the 2019-2020 NHL season? Or is it still too early for that?

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