Charles: Hide and seek

I had to laugh when reading my colleague Bridget Turcotte’s column a few weeks ago about her keto diet. The particular line that caught me was the one about finding a piece of chocolate she had hidden from herself in her freezer.

I try to do that. You know, hide food from myself that I know I shouldn’t have. The problem is, either I actually do a bad job of hiding it and someone else finds it (in my house the rule is, nobody owns any food, including really good leftovers, in the refrigerator), or even if I hide it, it keeps calling me and letting me know it’s there.

Food is just one of the things I’ve hidden, sometimes too successfully, in my house. I am famous (infamous?) for putting important papers, documents, bills, etc., somewhere I will definitely be able to get to at the proper time — and then promptly forgetting where I put it. I then get the pleasure of tearing through my already wreck of a house, looking for something that I put in that special place I knew I would remember.

The trouble is that as we get older, we are becoming increasingly more distracted. Experts have finally started to reveal that there is no such thing as multitasking. We just manage to do a whole host of things very badly — at the same time. We’re not really paying attention to where we put things down, because we stow it away while talking on the phone, watching television and listening to our favorite podcast.

And this whole concept of mind games actually (to my distracted, scattered psyche at least) goes back to hiding.

We hide from ourselves a lot more than we realize. Most of us like to think of ourselves as fairly self-aware. But tell me baby boomers, was there ever a word more badly needed in our vocabulary as the recently coined “frenemy”? We’ve all had them — friends we didn’t like, who didn’t care for us much either. Maybe we were forced together by proximity — the kid next door or across the street — or maybe they were relatives. Sometimes they might have been classmates, or fellow hobbyists who were about the same age. But whatever, you guys were friends, well sort of. Because you always left an encounter feeling a little off. That person always made you feel bad about yourself, but you couldn’t quite put a finger on, or put an end to that toxic relationship.

We hide our true discomfort from ourselves. It takes a lot of years of careful seeking to figure out that we don’t have to spend time with people whose sole purpose in life seems to be making us feel bad about ourselves.

And it’s not just people we hide from.

We all know we’re supposed to eat right, exercise (die anyway?), and it seems we spend an awful lot of time doing exercises we’re supposed to like, eating food that doesn’t taste good, but is allegedly good for us, and hiding our misery (along with a few candy bars).

Women, I believe, are especially encouraged to hide how we feel, but men also have their burdens. They have to hide their vulnerabilities and pain. So women are admonished if they don’t hide their anger (see Serena at the U.S. Open), men must hide their sorrow, and we’re all forgetting where we put the cures for what ails us.

The good news is that with age comes wisdom, along with those aches and growing pains. Well, sometimes, it’s good news. Nobody enjoys a crabby old person who shares his or her perception of what’s bad in the world in a glass-fully-empty kind of way.

But if we are lucky, our budding self awareness helps us to seek out the friends and family who make us feel good and worthy, eliminate or reduce the time with the toxic waste dumps of frenemies, find activities that bring us joy instead of misery, and look for as much light as we can find in a world where the news always seems bad.

Let’s face it — we’re all hiding something sometimes. But there is no pure joy like finding our best selves — and that special piece of chocolate in the fridge that you hid behind the frozen vegetables.

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