Day One: Smile

An outward sign of happiness or joy is often the simple act of a mouth turning upward. My mouth naturally turns downward, like the sad kabuki mask, so often even if I am not unhappy, people think I am. I have been beginning to wonder whether lately my mouth’s sad downturn is a true reflection of my own heart.

Often when I was single, in college and beyond, I would be out with friends at a restaurant or some social setting having a pretty good time. Inevitably, some guy would come up to me and say: “Smile!” It always rubbed me the wrong way, and had the opposite effect on me. I would scowl.

But a few weeks ago, my friend told me a story. She works at a dialysis clinic and one of the patients had made a particular impression on her. This patient was a young girl, who had to have a most brutal and medieval torture performed on her, two times a week, and yet my friend had only ever seen her smile and be gracious to everyone at the clinic. She asked the girl how she managed to always keep a cheerful face when being subjected to such horrible pain. The girl answered that at first she just pretended to smile, but then, when she noticed that people treated her more kindly and gently when she grinned, it ameliorated her pain to a degree. After a while, she said, smiling became a habit. It was better than the alternative.

So here’s to a Happy New Year full of smiles, both forced, then hopefully real. I’m hoping that by upturning my mouth, I can turn my heart upward.

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