Yesterday I was driving home from the mall, when this song by BRIIA came on the radio. The song is called "Fake It 'Til You Make It", in case you don't care to follow links.
Some of the bloggers whom I visit regularly may know from my breadcrumb trail of comments that my father passed away last summer. He had a serious stroke in 2007, which paralyzed him on one side of his body for the remaining eight years of his life.
The stroke changed my father's life almost completely. He went from being an active, outdoor-loving man to being confined to a
wheelchair. He was dependent on others for some of his most
basic needs. My life changed too. Suddenly I had not just my own responsibilities as a wife and mother and part-time employee and cat servant, but also the overseeing of all my dad's affairs - finances, wardrobe, appointments, disposition of his home - and I also took on the occupation of chief companion.
Dad spent seven months in the hospital waiting for a bed in a nursing home to become available. I visited him daily during those months, often twice a day, to help him eat and shave and wash and pass the time - trying in some small way to help him cope with the sudden and devastating change in his life.
But Dad was definitely an optimist. He dreamed of getting back to his old abilities and his old life. And I got to see a side of him I hadn't seen before. Or maybe it was a product of the stroke; there can often be a reduction in inhibitions in stroke survivors. Whatever the catalyst, he blossomed from a quiet man into a sociable and gregarious person. He loved visits from ... anyone, really, as long as they didn't stay too long or say stupid things. (But aren't we all apt to get impatient with those kinds of people?)
We soon noticed there was a regular visitor to the hospital wards, a middle-aged man who made the rounds every few days, stopping to chat with each patient for just a few moments. He was friendly and upbeat and you couldn't help but feel better by the time he left. He joked about the nurses. He joked about the food. He asked each person how their day was going. His favourite expression was "Fake it 'til you make it, eh?!" and Dad always agreed. Because what else can you do in a situation like that? But he put words to it. His words gave us a life preserver to hang on to, in those early days of uncertainty. His presence gave us warmth for the cold reality we faced as time went by. His matter-of-fact cheer gave us a few moments of normalcy in the hospital routine.
Dad never did "make it" in his definition of the words. To him, "making it" meant being able to walk again. He was paralyzed to the end of his life. But he kept faking it, almost every day. Being upbeat when he didn't feel like it. Being helpful to others despite often being the one most in need of help himself. Being brave on the outside to cover up the fears on the inside - fear of cancer, of surgery, of loss of sight, of the final sleep.
But even though he never walked again, he "made it" in a different way. He made the most of what he had left in his life. He kept in touch with all the family and friends he could, even when he had to have the phone held to his ear for him. He made new friends at the nursing home with his warmth and humour. Either his radio or his TV was on most of every day, and he could tell you the latest news and what the weather was supposed to do, who had died and who'd been born and who'd been elected. He knew how to wring the most from every moment. And he continued to be a loving father when I needed a listener or a word of encouragement, even as our positions of
parent and child seemed to have been reversed in so many other ways.
Some people say that faking it until you make it is a stupid way to handle adversity. They say you can't fake it. There's no point in faking it. Feel all the feels. If you feel terrible, let it all hang out. In some cases, for some reasons, and at some times, I agree. But sometimes - and the trick is to know when those times are - you can get pretty far by faking your way through. I've seen it done, and done well.
How about you? Tell me your story of adversity, or of good advice in the face of it.