Everyday Miracles is a very personal column for readers who want to explore the deeper meaning of life.
At some point in our lives—if we’re introspective enough, or if we desire change in our lives—we’ll take stock of our past and present so as to affect our future. I’ve been engaging in this exercise in small, manageable doses all my life, but never more than now, since hitting the milestone age of 50 in March.
For me, the half-century mark been a great reason to stop, assess where I am, learn and share. When I do this, an everyday miracle takes place: the miracle of seeing myself in another light, perhaps as others may see me.
Why is this an everyday miracle? Because the “aha” moment this action produces hopefully will move you in a new direction, a better direction. And that is worth celebrating!
Looking back over the last 10 years, I’ve come up with at least six things I’d tell my younger self. In six months, I may have six more things, but for now this is what I know to be true. Here’s the first one. I had planned to list them all here in this one article, but in writing this first one, I realized each one alone is worth elaborating on. So more will come in later posts.
Looking back at the few photos people have taken of me from afar, while I wasn’t aware they were doing it, when I was working publically in the field as a TV producer and reporter, and later as a magazine journalist, my facial expression was always pensive. I was always working hard, and thinking about it. I was always “inside” my head.
I never thought much about how I looked to people until my husband, early on in our relationship, caught me off guard by asking me, “Why are you scowling?” I’d respond, “I’m not scowling. I’m thinking.” That triggered memories of random people coming up to me at motorcycle events every now and then that I was covering saying, “Smile.” You don’t say that to someone who is smiling.
I realized that my default facial expression was a frown. Egad! How did that happen? Well, I’ll spare you the details of my upbringing and why I believe the smile I was born with morphed into a frown, but it had something to do with being the oldest of five children and never getting my way, or feeling like I was always being put out.
Looking back I remembered that unless someone said “smile for the camera” I was in my head most of the time and my head thoughts rendered a straight, pensive expression to the world. Someone once described me as serious. I remember that description surprising me.
But you say, “I can’t smile if there’s nothing to smile about or if I don’t feel happy or joyful.”
Then force a smile.
Take the Smile Test!
A smile is the first step toward changing one’s attitude. A few years ago I tested this theory. I started smiling on purpose, every time I was out in public—walking down a sidewalk, walking into a convenience store to use the bathroom, pumping gas, walking into a coffee shop, browsing a flea market; even riding my motorcycle!
Nearly everyone I engaged with smiled back at me. And if they didn’t, I maintained my smiley disposition and watched them go from being straight faced to chipper; maybe not full-on smiley, but my smile definitely helped move them out of their straight, drone facial expression.
I also discovered that having a smile on my face changed the disposition of my heart. So, for example, if I was feeling gloomy in my heart for no reason (which sometimes happens when its really overcast and cloudy outside, or some other seemingly artificial reason), the smile I forced across my face would eventually help the gloominess in my heart and mind disappear. And then when the gloominess disappears, I’m able to get back to counting blessings instead of burdens.
Try it right now. Smile. Go ahead. Squinch, yes, squinch (that’s my word) your cheeks so the corners of your lips upturn toward your ears. Open your lips. Not just a bit. A lot. Holding your lips together takes effort in a smile. Crack open those lips! Show some teeth!
Then exhale; let the hot, stuffy air out!
You’ve probably heard the expression that it takes more facial muscles to make a frown than a smile. This is an old wives’ tale and not true, according to researchers who actually counted the number of facial muscles to do both. Regardless, the heart effect is reason enough for me to smile when I don’t feel like it.
In the time I’ve been smiling on purpose, another everyday miracle has occurred. My forced smile turned into a real one, with no effort. I’m full of joy more often. The labored smile eventually morphs into a real smile, which then produces joy—which then produces gratitude, which then produces contentment and peace. And you know how I’ve proved this?
Well, for one, I feel more joyful and at peace. I don’t sweat the small stuff as often. My glass is now half full instead of half empty. It takes multiple days of no-sun before even a tinge of gloominess starts to creep in. And now, I can nip that gloomy feeling in the bud with a forced smile.
Additionally, out of the blue, people on Facebook—some I know and some I don’t—have privately messaged me to let me know that I seem so happy in my photos. One long-time friend from high school, whom I dont connect with often, surprised me with this: “Great to see the joy in your face in every photo.”
I guess it’s showing now—genuinely!
Heres a link to my next Everyday Miracles listing the next five things Id tell my younger self
Now share your thoughts on smiling, joy and whatever else moves your heart in the comments below.
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