But I Don’t Want To Smile
There are times when it seems like smiling is impossible. Not only impossible, but seeing someone else smiling when you’re in a really bad mood is infuriating because you want to do that, too, but you just can’t smile if your life depended on it.
And in a way, it does.
I sometimes go for days without producing a single genuine smile. There isn’t any reason for smiling as far as I can see. But I know that’s a lie. I want to feel good. I want to have fun. I want to smile. But when I’m in the middle of a depressive state it just feels wrong to smile. Not only wrong; my face muscles simply refuses to produce one. But a raging scowl, now, that I can manage. That beautifully pissed-off look that says to everyone in a ten-mile radius don’t mess with me.
Well, You’ll Have To Convince Me
I have to make a pretty good argument as to why I should change my attitude and smile. I can’t simply turn it off and on like I’m some kind of porch light. So I need some proof that smiling is going to change the way I feel. Or that smiling is somehow worth all the effort.
What can change my face into a welcome, open, happy face? Let me tell you, it takes a Herculean effort to do it and I don’t generally care for Herculean effort too much. It’s a whole lot easier for me to remain Mr. Curmudgeon and forget about lighting up the room with a fantastic smile.
And everyone, everyone notices it when you smile. More flies with honey than vinegar, right?
Who cares? What do I want to attract attention for? If I’m having a bad time of it I certainly don’t want person-to-person interaction. I don’t want to sit in a restaurant with a waiter, I want to go through the drive-thru so I don’t have to ‘entertain’ anyone. I sure as hell don’t want them to entertain me.
Therein lies the problem. Dinner seated in restaurant with a good wait staff and a long, leisurely lunch? Good times. Bag of Whoppers wolfed down after a surly and curt ‘thanks’ to the fast food service person? Bad.
It’s all a matter of perception.
Whadda Ya Mean, Perception?
That’s right, Barbie. Perception. If I told you that you could have fifty dollars if you smiled for ten minutes, would that make you change your mind? Well, isn’t a good attitude worth a lot more?
Don’t think so? Let’s go back to the restaurant. The waiter says ‘Hello, my name is Jim and I’ll be your server today. Can I get you something to drink?’
Your answer is ‘Yes, Drano Cocktail, straight up. Right Now. And make it a double.’
It’s not just the drink that’s caustic poison. It’s your attitude. It poisons everyone and everything around you because you’re making it happen. And a little smile goes a long way to making your dining experience better because that waiter won’t spit in your drink. Keep up that bad attitude and he just might hawk a big ol’ loogie in the middle of your Drano-tini special.
You Can Do It If You Make The Effort To Stand Firm
It takes some effort to change your attitude. There’s a lot of evidence that, even if you fake a smile, it begins to really change your ‘tude for the better.
For me it’s a matter or suspending myself in mid-air, so to speak. I just picture myself from the other person’s point of view and usually that helps, but only fifty percent of the time. When I’m really being stubborn it means changing my surroundings.
Yes, that’s right. Get in the car and get the hell out of the house. Read something comforting, something familiar. Write. Have a nap. Watch a film. Anything to get out of myself and into a mental state of distraction. And that is sometimes the hardest thing I can do.
I don’t like distraction very much. I’m an action person. I want things done the way I wish and making half-hearted efforts (false ones at that) just make me even more agitated, more irritated. But I do make the effort when it’s clear to me that it needs to be done.
Cute Enough For You?
Oh, fine. I’ll smile for a minute even if it kills me. So I do it. It takes a lot of practice and of course once a curmudgeon always a curmudgeon; but after I do it for a while, smiling becomes a little more natural. Less farce, more face. And before I know it, deep within the recesses of my crazy brain, I find that there’s a reason to smile. It may not be a big reason, but I’ll take what I can get.
Hell, If A Husky Can Do It, I Can
I can make the case that a Husky is among the smarter dogs on the planet. Having known a few, I’m certain of it. And if a dog can genuinely smile, then people are even better at it. Some examples:
See what I mean? Look at these people. Smiling away shamelessly, with openness, with character, with love.
Love is the only emotion in the human pantheon that creates a smile. It’s been said, anyway. Love of people, love of what they can do, love for who they are, love of their existence. That’s a lot of love.
So There Really Is Something To Smile About
Hard not to smile, really, when you stop and think about the gifts that life brings. When you’re affected with bipolar disorder like me, smiling is sometimes difficult but here’s the thing: like riding a bicycle, that smile’s coming back to you. No matter how bad things seem at the time, it’s only bad for a bit and then it’s back to smiling again.
No one can always smile. That would be hideous and sad. But learning to smile even when the chips are down isn’t natural, it’s learned. It’s merely a method to turn your bad mood around. And what that does for your psyche (not to mention your physical health) is nothing short of a near-miracle.
Now I have to take my own advice and make this happen much more often than it does, and that’s the best idea I’ve had today.
That’s So Stupid I Forgot To Laugh
Oh, one last thing. Laugh. Laugh out loud, often and at high volume. Hang out with people that make you laugh. Watch or listen to things that make you laugh. Laugh a lot.
I find laughing more impossible at times than smiling. But if a horse can laugh . . .