When I was a little girl, I’d look at the faces of older people and wonder why they grew so serious during long moments of quiet reflection. Why the corners of their mouths turned down, and their brows wrinkled, and their eyes drooped. Some very old people looked downright angry, though I came to understand that it was just the canyons of lines across their faces that gave them that appearance. Even the older folks who I knew were usually jolly would look too serious at times.

Not that I didn’t understand sadness or anger as a child. But this look was about something more than these. This seriousness I saw in their faces was a weight, a heaviness that comes from bearing a load. It was the look of someone who was resolved, but never fully surrendered to difficulties.

Life is hard, people. It’s really hard. For all of us.

We’re all struggling with some things internally and externally that eat away at our ability to maintain a sense of optimism and joy in our lives. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s a real thing.

I also think a lot of us are expending a lot of energy in a society that favors youthful verve and carefree smiles, trying to pretend that the load that we’re carrying isn’t carving canyons of worry and stress into our faces and our souls.

Because after all, the only thing worse than struggling is looking like you don’t have your shit together, isn’t it?

Yesterday afternoon I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror. I looked like I felt — heavy, tired and worried. And older. I quickly smoothed my face and went about my day, hiding my concerns with a smile and a joke, as we do. Until, of course, we can’t hide it anymore. And it becomes our face to the world. And young children look at us and wonder why we’re so serious in our long moments of quiet reflection.

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