I sat in the tub with my youngest, he with a paint brush in hand, asking me to smile but he wasn’t satisfied with the smile I gave him. He said it was missing something, some lines, so he proceeded to fix my smile with his paint and paintbrush.
The idea that my smile is missing something stuck with me. I’ve rolled the words over and over in my brain. I think of the pictures that exist of me, which are few due to the fact that I am the primary family photographer, and in so many of my recent pictures my genuinely happy smile appears to be missing. I always seem unhappy, guarded. The smile never quite makes it all the way to my eyes.
People are always telling me to smile, even when I think I already am. I smile and people tell me I’m not smiling, so I smile wider, feeling like my cheeks are about ready to burst and they still tell me I’m not smiling. I feel confused, I don’t know what more to do to smile.
Then the words of a three-year old got me thinking….
Where is my genuine smile? My happy smile? You know the kind of smile that fills your eyes and radiates from within you?
Did I lose it? Maybe I dropped it somewhere? Maybe I gave it to someone or it was stolen? Or maybe it’s in a safe place and I’ve just forgotten where I put it, kind of like my sunglasses or my car keys….
Is it even possible to lose your smile? I know I’ve been happy, and I’ve seen childhood pictures of a beautiful smile so I must have had one at one time.
How do you lose your smile?
Maybe I haven’t lost it really, and on occasions where I let my guard down it pays a rare visit, but the sadness my smile struggles through to be seen feels immense. The walls I have put up to keep others out are thick and tall and the layers of barricaded pain distort my smile. For people on the outside looking in it’s like seeing my smile from a million miles away through a dirty spyglass, the details are fuzzy and the smile looks incomplete, and, in the words of my three-year old, like it’s missing something, some lines, which was easy for him to fix with paint and a paintbrush.
Not such an easy task to bring down the barricades so people can see me smile and truly be happy again. I have a strong suspicion that happy person has been missing for so long many of my friends have forgotten her. A good cry would probably help but that’s a story for another time. Perhaps with some luck I will find her and my smile among my words and in the pursuit of my dreams, and hopefully I’ll be able to convince them both to stick around.