In Canada, you know spring has arrived when you see smoke rising from the maple wood forests. No, we aren’t burning the trees down. We’re collecting sap and boiling it to make maple syrup. It’s sugaring off season! Have you ever had real maple syrup? I don’t mean corn syrup or Aunt Jemima. I mean the real stuff… straight out of a maple tree and boiled to perfection. Once you’ve had it, there’s no going back.
Sugaring off entails going to one of the maple syrup making establishments. They aren’t factories. They are little wooden shacks in the middle of the woods. A horse and wagon ride is usually required to get you into the woods. You get a demonstration on how the sap is collected and made into syrup and the associated maple products (taffy, maple sugar, maple butter, fudge etc.) There is usually a bonfire, some folk entertainment and activities for the kids. Of course there’s lunch too….Canadian specialties accompanied by maple syrup and sugar pie for dessert. Sugar pie is basically maple fudge on a pie crust, except the fudge is the same consistency as the goo in pecan pie.You can only get sugar pie in Quebec. I’ve lived in Ontario, it’s just not the same.
This past weekend was my first sugaring off experience in a really long time. I was feeling fine when I agreed to go, but as the date approached, I began my descent into doom and gloom. I was dreading the sugaring off experience for all the usual reasons depressed people dread outings, but on top of that, an extra worry. I was going with the in-laws.
I’m very lucky. I get along quite well with my in-laws. They don’t know about my depression and anxiety problems though. My husband told me one time that his mother didn’t believe in mental illnesses like depression, so I thought it best to keep the in-laws in the dark. This can be a bit of a burden sometimes. When you are feeling this low, the last thing you want to do is put energy into hiding it. I was relieved when I awoke on the day of to find a blizzard. Maybe it would be cancelled and I could stay home. I don’t know why I thought that. This is Quebec, we don’t call in the army when it snows. We shrug and start digging!
So as I put on my blizzard gear, I went through my acting check list to make sure I was ready. I like lists, can you tell? Here’s my strategy for faking it when I need to.
- I smile. I hide behind a smile when I don’t want people to know how I am really feeling. I usually don’t feel like smiling. I try to have a joke or something in my head that I can’t help but smile a little. Lately I’ve been singing the Lego Movie song, it works well for me. “Everything is awesome…” I didn’t have to sing in the end, I was so bundled up that you couldn’t tell if I was smiling or not! Score!
- I redirect the conversation. If someone asks how I am, I say fine and then switch the conversation to something about them. Something more than how are you. I ask about their work or their kids for example. People like to talk about themselves. They never notice that I’ve redirected the conversation.
- I try to look healthy. I slap on a little tinted moisturizer and some foundation to cover the darkness under my eyes and I’m good to go. There is nothing like a pale face or bags under your eyes to make people ask questions. I imagine doing this would be easier for women. For guys, or at least the ones that don’t wear make-up, there is a little more preparation involved. I would make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before and stay hydrated. This keeps you looking fresh.
- I like to have support. I told my husband how I was feeling. Having someone know was a relief on its own. Throughout the day he would send me little smiles and put his arm around me. It made it easier knowing he was there to back me up.
- I don’t give details. I say I’m just not feeling right if someone asks why I am quieter than usual or something. Giving details leads to thinking, which usually leads to tears. Never a good thing when you are trying to hide it.
- I give myself a break. It’s okay not to be the life of the party or hide it perfectly. I’m participating, I didn’t flake despite really wanting to. I have to give myself a little pat on the back for that.