She looks at herself like she has so many times before. She sees the face the world sees. The perfectly plucked eyebrows. The confidence. The “I’m going somewhere” look in her brazen but soft honey-colored eyes. She sees the face of the twenty-nine-year-old who’s accomplished her to-do list, who’s achieved her carefully planned goal list.
Sure, she sees some things the rest of the world probably doesn’t notice as much as she does. She sees the tiny crinkles around her eyes, crinkles that look more like furrows to her. She sees the mole on the side of her cheek that screams to her every time she looks in the mirror. She sees bags under her eyes, imperfections, skin dull enough to be the “before” on a skin care commercial.
Tonight, though, she’s starting to see more than just crow’s feet and fine lines. She’s seeing something she hasn’t seen before, not fully.
She’s seeing the cracks.
They’d been there before, at least in the hairline variety. They’d been splintering carefully, delicately, so sneakily her observant eye missed them.
Or maybe she just wanted to miss them. They’d been cracking and fissuring, slowly cascading down her face, waiting for that moment.
That moment had come.
It wasn’t a big moment, an earth-shattering moment. It wasn’t a moment anyone else would recognize or she would talk about. It wasn’t one of those “Oh my God, did you hear” water cooler moments in the office. It was nothing, really.
Yet, it was certainly something. It was the final hammer, the final incitement. The cracks had finally connected. The fracturing of her had happened.
And she finally noticed.
In hindsight, this wasn’t something new. It’d been building, bubbling for a while. From the outside, she looked fine. Her perfectly glossed lips, in pink of course, and her gleaming white teeth fooled the world… and they fooled herself, in truth. She was the woman who had it made. She wasn’t famous. She was an average American Dream achiever. The house, the modest car, the husband, the family. She had everything she could want. She was collected and rational. She was responsible and energetic.
She was the face of contentment.
But… she wasn’t content. Not completely.
There were symptoms thinks were about to go wrong. The friends who were “friends” until something went wrong or until she needed help. The “friends” who were friends until she achieved something or had something good happen to her, leading to the jealous mockery, angry sneers. There was the constant pull for approval, the need for recognition. The constant need to make him proud, to make him respect her. The push and pull, the escalating pressures of being what she was perceived to be.
Sometimes, she felt tiny thoughts creeping in, thoughts she quickly stomped out, thoughts she put a hammer to. Thoughts she didn’t want to admit.
Thoughts of feeling alone, isolated, of feeling starkly insufficient at relationships. She had thoughts of disappearing, of starting over. She had thoughts of going it alone, of going into the woods all adventurer style and living in solitude.
Okay, so that wasn’t realistic, she knew.
But what really scared her were the thoughts she had on her morning commute, serious thoughts of stomping down on the gas pedal and driving away, never to return.
Women like her, though, didn’t do these sorts of things. Women like her laughed off these feelings, played them up to hormones or a bad burrito or a rough time or a lack of sleep. Women like her, successful and selfless, didn’t throw themselves pity parties or think about doing the unspeakable act of leaving. Women like her smiled through the pain, painted on more lip gloss, covered the cracks with some spackle and kept on moving. Women like her thought of others first. Women like her looked inward to fix the problem, tried to be better, nicer, smarter, wiser, funnier.
But then tonight happened, and suddenly, the cracks were so obvious, she couldn’t believe she didn’t see them before. A part of her felt freer, cleaner, better just for recognizing what she’d been pushing away.
A part of her, though, felt dirty. She actually pulled her gaze away, lowered it to the floor, and headed for her nightly, ritualistic shower. Turning the faucet on, she realized how tired she felt. She climbed into the stream of water, let it cascade down her back, jumping at the shock of the cold before reveling in the steamy warmth.
She stared at the water swirling down the drain, hoping in some ways these thoughts would swirl right down with the water. Like so many other nights, she would wash away these feelings, would emerge from the shower the person she always was. She would face the world as the smiling girl again.
These feelings, though, weren’t going anywhere. Staring at the water swirling down the drain, it was the same color it always was. Suddenly, though, it looked murky. These feelings were as palpable as the condensation on the shower wall her fingers were tracing. They were as real as the stream of water droplets pelting her skin.
No, she couldn’t unsee the cracks. Tomorrow, when her alarm went off, she would probably try to patch them up. She would put on that pink lipgloss.
But it wouldn’t be the same. The world might not see the cracks, but she knew they were there now. She knew, like a ticking time bomb, they were waiting to spread, to radiate outward and upward and every which way.
Tomorrow, she might pull it off. She might be the girl she’d been for almost three decades. She might fool herself again, fool everyone, just for another day.
Then again, she might not. Tomorrow she might stomp on that gas pedal. She might go to the wilderness. She might wallow in her isolation, wallow in the knowledge she wasn’t who she thought she was.
Because when women like her crack, they can never be the same woman again.
This is purely a fiction piece… but in many ways, I think there’s a lot of truth behind it. Today’s women are taught perfection is attainable. We are to be confident, selfless, jovial, energetic go-getters at all times. To admit sadness or struggles is viewed as selfishness. So many women are dealing with identity crises and feelings of isolation but are afraid to admit it. I hope this piece gives some of you the strength to realize no life is perfect. We all suffer with cracks and self-doubt and desires for a new life. There is nothing selfish about trying to find what makes you truly happy