Despite happy occasions like Levi’s second birthday and a long-awaited visit from my best friend and her toddler son, July was marked by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Some days, the sadness weighed so heavily on my shoulders that it felt more like despair.
However, this isn’t a post about my troubles. I still feel the need to keep a few things about my private life, well, private. Also, I’m not as brave as my new friend Ellen, who recently shared a vulnerable post about her own demons.
Instead, I’d like to talk about how I coped with the sadness I felt last month. Or, at least, how I tried to cope with my feelings.
Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face.
Brush off the clouds and cheer up, put on a happy face.
— “Bye Bye Birdie”
Many mornings in July I struggled to get out of bed. I wanted to bury myself under the sheets and wallow in my melancholy for as long as possible.
But as the person primarily responsible for my toddler’s day-to-day care, I didn’t have that luxury of time. Keeping Levi home from school because I wanted to sleep away the sadness was not an option, so I put on a happy face for my son. (Although twice I did crawl back into bed after taking him to preschool in the morning and putting him down for his afternoon nap.)
I put on a happy face because I wanted Levi’s day to seem as normal as possible. We still had things to do and people to see, and I refused to let my worries disrupt our daily routine.
I put on a happy face because I wanted to spare Levi from seeing me mopey. While it’s important for toddlers to learn about emotions and feelings, I didn’t want to be a case study in sadness for him.
I put on a happy face because I had work to do. Forcing myself out of the house, I couldn’t be the sourpussed thirty-something writing in the corner of Starbucks; emo is not a good look for a suburban mom.
My coping strategy was not about faking it til you make it. It wasn’t Gretchen Rubin’s act the way you want to feel principle. Is it possible to rid yourself of a superficial bad mood simply by forcing yourself to smile? Possibly. But I don’t believe that you can replace sadness with happiness by just pretending that you are happy. You need to uncover the root of the melancholy before you can remedy it.
I put on a happy face to temporarily mask the pain I was feeling on the inside so that I could accomplish every day basics: eating, showering, dressing, caring for Levi, and finishing my work. At no time did I believe that simply smiling would wash away my worries nor was that my intention.
I hope this month’s desktop wallpaper designed by Mariah encourages you to put on a happy face the next time you’re troubled. My wish is that it motivates you to do whatever you need to do to just get through the day — and then you can tackle the deeper issues at hand.
Download this month’s desktop wallpaper here!
P.S. — Download past Desktop Designs here.
Desktop Designs is an on-going collaboration between Bunny & Dolly and Oh, What Love.