Be Genuine while Faking It

Elisa Hays Speaker

On June 14 three years ago, I woke up in my own bed for the first time after three and a half months in hospitals. It was a Saturday and we had a birthday party for our daughter Sarah. I stepped into a bright new day and the beginning of getting on with living.

Only two days prior in the rehab hospital I had charmed my way into convincing the doctors to send me home a week earlier than they had planned. I had been hospitalized for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, my wedding Anniversary, and my 47th birthday. I was determined to be home for Sarah’s party. My husband Steve did all the preparations of course, but I chatted with the giggly 14-year old girls and joined in festivities. In brief conversations and on Facebook posts I seemed completely cogent. Like myself. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I wanted to be ‘okay’ so badly that I just played the part. I am a performer after all. In truth, I felt like a ghost inhabiting my home. Eerily, the suitcase I had packed many months prior, which had been recovered from the wreck, lay abandoned in a corner of my bedroom with my belongings scattered haphazardly. A painful reminder of plans gone catastrophically wrong.

My brain was equally damaged. Thoughts rearranged and sprawled themselves in an untidy fashion across my mental landscape. This world outside of hospitals appeared simultaneously fuzzy and technicolor. It was big, frightening and out of control. Loud sounds attacked my psyche. Voices tumbled on top of each other and spiraled through my mind with the chaotic violence of a tornado. I couldn’t focus on words or meaning for more than a few seconds. I faked listening. Reading was impossible, but I tried. Over and over my eyes scanned the same paragraph but my brain couldn’t remember what it said.

I used a walker with extreme pain, carrying with me the bandages and drain tubes still attached to my left buttocks. Dialysis tubes hung freely off my chest like color coded plumbing attachments. My left hand was weak from the multiple breaks. My right hand and wrist didn’t work at all. Headache and deep fatigue were constant companions. Survival isn’t pretty.

And yet I smiled – genuinely. Through it all we had fun and I was deeply grateful for the supportive community around me. Resilience and fortitude grow because of the very qualities that I share as a speaker – courage, comedy, creativity and compassion. Those aren’t pithy things I came up with because they sound good. I’ve lived it and learned it the hard way. I’ve made mistakes and still do. A lot. But those mistakes only remind me to get back to what I know is the way. And when we know the way we can genuinely lead others, regardless of how much we must fake it through the circumstances.

No matter how hard things get, or how much you feel like you’re simply pretending to be okay, if you practice four things you’ll magnetize around you a loyal community willing to share the load and genuinely fake it with you.

I help organizations build whole-hearted communities through ‘half-assed’ leadership. We work together in three ways: speaking, consulting, and executive coaching. Step up from the ordinary…. Contact me today.

17 replies
    • Elisa Hays
      Elisa Hays says:

      That’s an interesting perspective. I think it can be both! Sometimes, we’re just going through a series of practiced or habitual actions, which I call faking. The difference in my mind depends on your motivation and heart.

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