Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The look

I have it. I know I do. And I recognize others who have it, especially here in the hospital. It's the look. The set of someone's face that says they are going through something hard. A look of peculiar distance and immediacy all at once.

I don't always know when I look this way and I know I can't tell you what it looks like on me, but I can see other people's reaction to me and I think Oh, yeah, I guess I have the look. When I look in the mirror all I see is tired, but I guess there's something else there. Or maybe tired, this tired, is enough.

I know it's there because people meet my eyes and then look away, but can't stop glancing back.

I know it's there because of unexpected kindness, like the lady in the cafeteria who gave me more fries than even a fifth grader could eat. "Here you go honey, you look like you could use a smile."

I know it's there because when I see someone else who has it, we smile at each other a tiny bit, a mutual acknowledgement that we are both in our own hells, not the same but neighboring, and it's nice to smile at your neighbors. Even if you don't want to smile at all.

I don't know what else to tell you about it but for this: When you see someone with the look, be kind. Don't stare, don't run away. It might be in a hospital, but I've seen it in the supermarket and at the gym, everywhere I have been. We all will wear this face at some point in our lives, so let it be a signpost for compassion and respect. It isn't a comfortable expression to wear but sometimes it's the best you can do.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Wow. Favorite line: because it is noce to smole at your neighbors. Wow

  2. I know it well, reading your eloquent evocation brings it up again for me and so much nearly unbearable sadness.

    1. Oh love, I'm so sorry to make you sad, but glad to know I'm not alone in it.

  3. This is important work you're doing, Laura -- not just with Kevin, but in opening up your experiences to the world. Thanks for your bravery!

  4. Love this. Sad you have the look but I love the insight you share about it.


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