I'm a pro at putting up exteriors. So by the time I get to work, I manage a smile and muster morning greetings. All the while, I'm pushing the dread down, away from my psyche and into my body. Down. Deep down into that hole between the throat and the chest, deep enough to keep it at bay but still feel the hollow ache. A strange comfort it is, that hollow ache. It makes me recognize something is not right, that I need change, but it is a pain I'm not ready to shake. Hell, it is a pain I'm still struggling to identify.
I scroll through Instagram and the ache bubbles a bit, tickling my throat. All those images from everyone who has their shit together. The healthy breakfast plate, situated next to fresh flowers atop granite counters. A snap of someone's Apple watch, "5 miles. Check! Ready for a great day!" My desk phone starts to ring and I glance at the number. Can't take that call right now. No sooner than it goes to voicemail does my work cell begin to chime. It must be urgent. I take the call. It is not urgent.
I want a cigarette, but I don't smoke at the office, because, you know, exteriors.
Push it down again. Out of the throat and back into the hole where it belongs. Hopefully I'll get too busy to notice. Maybe I'll take a nap at lunch. Perhaps I'll leave work early and go for a walk. None of this will happen, but I'll return home sometime around 6 p.m. and, usually, it will melt away.
Sometimes the dread lingers and makes it's way back to my brain. I'll fixate on tomorrow or next week or next month, but I won't dig to see just why it returns. That would mean chipping away at the wall, opening a door that I like to keep closed. Because ultimately, the exterior is so much easier to maintain than the interior. That's where the real work begins.