Earlier on in my life, I learned that your facial expressions can dictate an entire conversation. I was reminded through many interactions about my smile. During my youth, I was told that I had a "goofy look" because my eyes would light up in a very zany way. As a teenager, older men acknowledged my age and looked past it because to them, my tiny yet developing frame swayed my hips like an adult. Through my short stint of working at an acupuncturist office, I was instructed by my supervisor to control my expressions. "You wear your concerns on your face and now, others are concerned for you." At every step of the way, I was reminded that my smile doesn't belong to me.
I must sound bitter or standoffish to make such a statement. It's not that I don't believe that folks smile from a genuine place; I just know that people can smile to give others permission to relax. Realistically, I cringe when I think about being a show monkey showcasing my smile to give others relief but I've unconsciously done it on several occasions, including today.
My closest friends, family and even a few handful of you followers have been worried about me. I know I am not the best at responding right now. Again, I'll reiterate that this has been a rough week. When I feel comfortable, I might disclose (or maybe not). My marbles are halfway across the floor and my sleep has been atrocious. When I cry, I feel something. When I don't, my muscles and body reminds me that I'm hurting. At brief moments when I am relieved of both, I'm spending my empty moments of assuring my nearest and dearest that I'm "strong." What to do, I asked myself.
Seems like that solves everything temporarily. But I'm still broken. I learned that when I smile hard enough, I can temporarily get some peace. I can sacrifice 10 minutes of my time to reassure a few worried people that I'm okay just to have 60 minutes of grieving time. No, I'm not okay. I will be soon. Just not right now.
I miss the pavement because I can have an excuse to be fatigued. I can hurt from something and burn energy beyond my comfort zone. My anxiety can sing harmoniously with my heavy footsteps. I run faster when I'm distressed most days. Downhills are a rollercoaster ride as I dance between burning out my hip flexors and calves and pretending to say fuck it to every single thing that's shitty about life. Uphills sting my quads ferociously, reminding me of struggle, fight or flight and how to embrace the pain. I don't have to smile when I run and when I do, it's for me.
At this moment, I am not allowed to run on a hill or even walk for miles. My mind has been bearing weights and prescription drugs, loaded with strict orders. I'm on a pursuit of looking for a therapist that will not become the Boston Tea Party to my pockets. My mind is still in hibernation and it seems like most people want me to wake up prematurely. I cannot smile for everyone. It's easy and so goddamn hard at the same time. Instead, I'll write away the instabilities, tell myself that if I'm feeling something, I'm still alive and pushing myself to remember things like taking a shower.
My ex supervisor wanted me to put on a game face for clients. My deceased daddy said otherwise. "Let a muthafucker know that you don't feel comfortable because you're not responsible for their feelings. You can't fix broken people when you're barely able to glue your own pieces back together." I was 14 years old when he told me this, sometime before or after his second stroke. It was probably one of the many times I saw my dad without a smile and he cried in front of us. He used to smile for the family too but I learned the other side to strength watching him crumble that day. Even my Superman had to relinquish his cape once in a blue. The cape never made him strong to me; it was always his drive. Hopefully I can be brave like that too. In the meantime, I'm recovering.
Marathon training on hold. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. I just cannot smile at this moment to make you happy. I hope you guys can respect it.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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