Monday, 23 June 2014

The Honest Power of a Smile

As I was hurriedly driving my daughter to daycare I saw a girl walking with her eyes intently looking down at her feet. She appeared glum. Maybe she wasn't. Maybe she was happily daydreaming. It reminded me of a time I was in eighth or ninth grade.

I was walking home from school in the rain. I stared at my feet, as I probably always did. I most likely was not creatively daydreaming. I was avoiding life. I was dreading going home. Yet I was dreading the return to school the next day. 

An older teenager briskly walked by and in the cheeriest voice said, "Chin up, it's a beautiful day." I'll be honest, I don't remember exactly what he said. But it was only a few words. A few impacting words that radiated a smile. I still vividly remember the worn sidewalk and the old houses I passed. I remember my slumped posture. My unsure footsteps. I remember looking up. The rain in my eyes. Just like it was yesterday, and not over 20 years ago. 

I knew I didn't smile enough. And after that day I honestly tried. Repeatedly. Absolutely unsuccessfully. It was awkward. It made me uncomfortable to get a smile in return because I felt invisible and being noticed was terrifying. And every effort to smile felt like a betrayal to the truth that I was not happy. I needed help. I needed relationships. I needed peace. I needed forgiveness. I needed healing. I needed hope. 

Smiling wasn't going to magically get me that. And I worried that it would decrease the probability of a heroic intervention because people would think I was okay (that was a facet of healing I battled with into my thirties).

But I wasn't okay. And was all that mattered. 

That's what I think about the lack of a smile. It says I'm all that I can think about. I don't care about your issues because I have problems. I don't want to consider your discomfort because I'm not comfortable. I don't want to think about you because I'm too busy. I don't want to turn from my issue for a moment and acknowledge you because I want my issue acknowledged. I don't want to make you feel good because I need someone to make me feel good.

Some people smile easily. They automatically smile at the approach of any set of eyes that may witness their beam. Others are a little uncomfortable with the idea and have to force out a lifting of the corners of the mouth. Some find the effort unnecessary. Others downright feel they have the reason and the right to refuse. 

Yes, it's true, some grins are more genuine than others. Smiles are actually multifaceted, intricate expressions and the receiving of these gifts are filtered through our own assumptions and motives. But a lack of a smile says much. 

I may go as far as saying being someone who won't smile is selfish. But at the same time very self damaging. 

It wasn't until I smiled at grumpy customers that I saw the redemption in a smile. It wasn't until I smiled at a wedding when I actually longed to find love that I realized the joy in a smile. It wasn't until I learned to give a smile of encouragement in spite of all my crap that suffocated me that I realized the freedom in a smile. It wasn't until I laughed through the pain that I realized the healing in a smile. It wasn't until I smiled at my daughter through rushing and worrying that I felt the bonding of a smile. It wasn't until I smiled confidently at a stranger that I realized the power in a smile.

A smile can break down walls. It can initiate conversation. It can ease worry. It can release tension. It can eliminate assumptions (seriously, the thought that someone is being snotty brings many questions of "why?"). It can ease pain. It can increase faith. It can soften hearts. It can close gaps. It can unite different people. It can do more than you think possible. And the magic is often poured on both the giver and receiver. 

When I think of my sorrowful youth and how those around me (intentionally or unintentionally) made me feel, I know the power of a smile. I endeavor to have one to offer, knowing that it could change a moment. 

Or it could change a life. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

An Impossible Beautiful Change

Being a mom has opened my mind, strengthened my capacity, and enriched my emotions. This I knew would happen. I'd been warned. My energy has multiplied. (So has my exhaustion. Is that simultaneously possible?) I can function with much less sleep than I thought conceivable. I changed my mode of operation in many areas from my original (set in stone, I might add) plan of action. 

Some things previously seemed impossible. But a new reality occurs out of necessity. Priorities shift, which enables what would once be unfeasible to become the minimal requirement. 

Ten years ago, if you told me to act in confidence for the sake of my child I would have deemed the task impossible. But I never knew how much the love for another could motivate weighty change. 

I have always been insecure. My opinion of each feature would without fail contain the expression not enough. Body not skinny enough. Hair not smooth enough. Eyebrows not even enough. Muscles not toned enough... I could go on and on. But this isn't what matters. 

What matters is I know I wasn't born thinking like that and I know my daughter wasn't born thinking like that either. What matters is she will have many negative influences in her life and I want mine to be positive. What matters is that many of those thoughts are actually lies

I'm not perfect. I'm not formed to be. No one is meant to be perfect. Or anywhere near perfect. We are actually supposed to embrace our differences. Enjoy our unique features. And love who we are created to be. Stop focusing on the I wish so we can embrace the I am. 

In my desire to pass that on I only have one choice. I must believe that for myself. And in this venture I have discovered something that I never would have imagined.

I am capable of refraining from talking negatively about my body.

Even when she sees me try on an outfit that no longer fits. Even when I'm failing at a new hairstyle attempt. Even when my spouse has been too busy. Even when I am premenstral. Even when seasons change. 

Anytime she's there. 

Biting my tongue leads to refraining from feeding those negative thoughts. Pushing away those thoughts leads to accepting reality. Accepting reality leads to seeing the beauty in what is actually there. 

I have a bit of curve here and there like many women. I have thick beautiful hair (which I just really need to learn how to deal with). My eyebrows are dense enough and dark enough. (Which reminds me of the day my daughter cried because she could barely see her eyebrows.) My muscles are strong.

I could go on. Because this is what I have and I am to make the most of what I am. This is what I have and I am to take care of what I've been given. This is what I have and I am to highlight it and not hide it's treasure. 

Beauty is not in a perfect smile, but in a well used smile. Beauty is not in a certain frame, but in a confidently poised frame. Beauty is not in a color, but in what shines from within. Beauty is not in the size of the breasts, but in the heart they sit next to. Beauty is not in the mane, but in the mind it surrounds. 

The more I focus on my true beauty, the more others can see it. The more my daughter can glean from my vision of myself. 

It's a big task. Because she is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I want her to love her sprinkling of freckles. Enjoy her wisps of red hair. Have pride in her inherited tall stature. 

The first step is with me. But I can do it. Simply because I refuse not to.

I've only got one me. I best enjoy, and reflect, my bounty.