My face has been known to intimidate my students. It has made my sons cry on more than one occasion.
“What is the matter?” people ask on days I am feeling just fine, good even.
Between my eyebrows, there is a furrow which at first glance may suggest deep thought, or mild aggression, or possibly boiling rage. I have to concentrate to relax it away, and change the message of my face from “tread carefully” to “why, hello there.”
I don’t smile nearly enough - not at my boys, or my wife, or my parents, and certainly not at strangers or casual acquaintances. If my face is a book, I am not sure it is one people would be excited to read.
The book of my face does an admirable job of telling the story during the big moments of life. When my story is one of exceptional joy, my face will show you that in a moment’s glance - crooked teeth, eyes alight with happiness. When I am angry or feel I have been wronged, there will be no hiding it. I lock eyes with my adversary, and bystanders dive to the ground covering their heads. When sadness takes over, laying itself across my back like a heavy coat, one need only take a cursory glance to know.
The problem is, my face malfunctions in the ordinary times. Washing dishes, listening to my boys tell me about their days, sitting beside my wife reading, talking with my aging parents - in these moments a glance at my face tells far too serious a story. In the hours that make up the majority of one’s life, my face reads like a tale of an angry young man or perhaps a tale of one betrayed too many times. But, I am not angry. I have not been betrayed. That is just my face. My book has an unwelcoming cover. The book of my face misleads the reader and does not hint at how wonderful a story lies beneath.
This is not a light-hearted tale, it seems to say.
I began writing, in part, to reveal a bit more of the true story behind the face I wear and show others. I began writing my blog so that years from now, my sons will have a record of the way I look at the world rather than the way I appear to look at it. The title of my blog came from my time in Vermont. I liked the connection to Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in the state, a place where one can see clearly for miles.
I was also struck by an image I saw repeated all over the state. Along winding highways and dirt roads alike, I frequently saw farmers standing and leaning on a fence post, or amid the clumps of tilled land, or paused atop an idling tractor. There they surveyed their fields. They took stock of what they had, where it had come from, what it could become through their toil. One man’s field, each one. I am sure there are all sorts of stories of joy behind the wrinkles of their serious faces. Despite the simple and unyielding cover, there are wonderful stories beneath.
I set out to take stock of my life and share any observations that might resonate with others. It is a solitary pursuit, but the fruits of that labor have created a much deeper connection to community than I had ever thought possible. My closest friends have come to understand parts of me I would be unlikely to share in public. Acquaintances have become friends. They have come to literally read chapters of my life, moving well beyond what my face could ever convey, far beyond what one could see by taking me at face value.
The next step in that is my joining Facebook. I haven’t so far, because I fear the replacement of real interaction with tallies of likes and shares. I fear the compulsion, the voyeurism, the distraction of another invasive technology. The part of me that distances myself from others had vowed to never join.
But, life is quick and I find myself hoping to connect a bit more closely with those around me, to share a bit more of myself. My hope in joining is that I will be able to tell a fuller story to more people.
I doubt getting older, watching my parents age and eventually pass, tackling the trickery of teenage boys, will help relieve my furrowed brow. It is unlikely my directness will suddenly be viewed as a warm invitation to sit and chat, but perhaps Facebook might just help tell a story my face sometimes covers up.