Do You Make Distinctions Between Sincerity and Seriousness?

It’s time to share a trait that sometimes gets me into trouble.

Truth be told, I should replace “sometimes” with one of those phrases like “frequently has” or “sometimes with great consequence,” or “caused a huge misunderstanding.” Bear with me and read on.

Dad & his granddaughter sincerely yakking it up

I am not somber about much in life.

Out of four kids, me being number two, I was probably the most serious growing up, given to the most introspection, and the most analytical of what was going on around me. Except for the occasional instigation-of-nonsense that has been a part of me since toddler years, I tended toward the solemn. Teenage angst? I’m sure I was one of the inventors of that phrase. It took a long time for our parents to teach me, “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” The other three figured out much sooner that laughing at themselves was a good idea.

It often takes drastic circumstances for people to change and over the years hard events have hit me, helping to lighten my mental load. There have been many moments of somberness in my life, in the life of my family since a sad roll of significant occurrences started in 2004. Since the losses of our parents a mere eight months apart, from lung cancer (Mom) and ALS (Dad), it’s been rather difficult for me to take much in daily life seriously. Each passing of a person or a change in circumstances caused family-wide depression, melancholy, and commiseration. To not admit to those emotions would be to deny the impact those folks had on our world when they lived and the holes left by their deaths.

But by the time we were dealing with Mom succumbing to the disease in August of 2008 while coping with dad’s decline at the same time, we seemed, as the Gilbert Griffith family, to have lost most our ability to be gloomy. During one of the ten days of Mom being with us and not, I dug out all the humorous DVDs we had on hand. I sat with Mom while listening to Dad and my siblings laugh at the ever ridiculous original Airplane movie. It was a way to manage the stress.

Trite phrases that became a reality in our daily lives:

Life is short.
None of us get out alive.
People hope to reach heaven, but no one looks forward to the final step required to get there.

Given the termination of life on this planet, I find it difficult to get serious about looking fashionable, maintaining our home like Martha Stewart lives here, or where are we in regard to the Joneses. These outward symbols of stylishness and success mean little when we reach our death beds. What becomes of the highest importance is who we were to others while we lived, what did we share of ourselves with the world, what is the personal legacy we left behind?

If only I could give up my churlish approach to driving in Pittsburgh, maybe I’d stop being serious in my entirety. But longer than two miles — who’m I kidding? — one mile behind the wheel and all I can do is observe the folks who get behind theirs and check their brains into the trunks. Recently, it was a dad steering his mini van over the busy streets with a child strapped to his chest in one of those baby slings. Can you say airbag disaster waiting to happen?

All that said, I am sincere about nearly everything.

I am also irritatingly humorous — and sincerely use humor to attempt the brightening of someone’s day.

As teenagers, older sister Jackie got the brunt of this exasperating behavior — usually when we were clearing the dishes after supper. She washed, instigator-I dried. I still wonder why she didn’t hit me with one of the heavy cast iron Club skillets Mom used to prepare dinner. My antics would begin with me pushing at Jackie to make her mad (easy for me to do to this otherwise calm person). Who knows what I said? This is the 1970s, long before teens recorded everything they did. Thank goodness. Once Seester was raging at me, I’d start trying to make her laugh. With my entire heart, I wanted Jackie to start chuckling, even if it meant she’d take a swipe at me with a well-flung wet washcloth in a feeble attempt to shut me up.

Nice brat, eh?

Again and again, I’ve stated: I’m not sure why Jackie let me live! I’m simply thankful the decades turned us into best friends.

Outward appearances come from the internal.

A coworker once said that she wanted to be happy like she saw me being on a daily basis. The statement made me sad because even though this woman had a sense of humor that could bring me to instant laughter, she worried about and took everything — and I do mean everything — seriously. It was tedious and exhausting and hard not to ponder how difficult life must be to be her. I tried referring her to the simplest of bible versus about worry:

Luke 12:25 — “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”
Matthew 6:34 — “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Nothing worked, she continued to wear herself out with concern for the things that rarely came to be.

Really, though, why be serious about what is beyond our control or influence? A thing is what it is. Dive in, get on with it, and come out the other side — with a smile on your face.

Those Griffiths…

We had an abundance of humor in our lives growing up, with levity being the default Griffith trait. We were raised with the phrase, “Happy as a pig in mud.” Grandpa had pigs on the farm — long gone before we grandkids came along — and we used to play in the now fully wooded “pig lot.” We heard that phrase a lot and had it re-explained to us multiple times — are you getting the idea here that the more frequently you hear a word — lot — the more that thing can occur during your day?

Today, try saying to yourself any number of sentences that begin with “I’m happy….” By the end of the day, you will sincerely be happy about not being too serious about the twelve or so hours you were just vertical, interacting with the world.

Learning the difference between being cheery or acting the idiot is an important one.

There is a good lesson to be learned in understanding the difference between being sincere or serious.

I take my friendships seriously. But only if they involve people who can make me roar with laughter and who get my jokes — even the warped puns that pop out of me unchecked. This laughing at quips and having inside jokes is one of the elements that keeps Alex and I on the right marital track. He totally gets my sense of humor and knows when I’m cracking wise no matter what the tone of my voice is or the expression on my face.

I’d tell you that I take loving my family seriously, but as soon as you met even one of them, you’d find out how impossible that would be to believe. They’re a strange bunch, comprised of individuals who truly like nothing more than to burst into loud, hearty chortling over the smallest thing.

So there it is. Some differences between sincerity and seriousness.

I sincerely believe that I’m being serious from time to time, but then reality slaps me in the face with a sobering event and I realize how marvelous it is to be alive and what a great life I’m involved in and gosh, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the world to be serious about. Author of The Writer’s Travel Journal — for your adventures. Essayist of humor, grief, & family — they go together.

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