It was dark on my morning walk as I forced myself to smile. There was nothing funny about the dark, but I smiled anyway.
I was exercising; not just my legs, but my smile.
“I am not going to become a grumpy-looking old person,” I told myself. I had seen those faces; the edges of lips turned down in a permanent frown. A look at a few Mitch McConnell photos should scare anyone. I was resolute; this was not going to happen to me.
I would be an old person with smile lines around my eyes and a mouth that turned up.
That doesn’t come easy. Lips are like any muscle; use it or lose it. I had decided that even if there was nothing funny happening in front of me, I was going to work my smile. It’s hard. Harder than I expected.
For one thing: it feels weird. At first. Which is why I started my efforts to smile—without any obvious reason—in the dark. No pedestrians to worry about and the drivers wouldn’t see. I could get some chops of skill in place before placing my practice out in public. Privately work through newbie stumbles.
After a winter of dark, morning, smile-walking, the weather got nice. I was walking in daylight hours, my smile now a comfortable companion. And a funny thing happened: life started serving up all sorts of things that sparked a smile. Like the mom pushing a baby carriage through the crosswalk, her three-year-old in tow pushing her baby doll carriage. My smile came easily; no effort required. A torrent of smile-worthy things started to appear.
The truth is, they were always there. Life is always serving up things to smile about. The hummingbird that flits by; the smell of baking bread; a friend’s hug; the warmth of the sun. It’s just I’m often oblivious to those moments.
Meditation helps me with mindfulness. When I combine that with strong smile muscles, it’s a lot easier to beatifically embrace those moments.
Plus, all that muscle work reduces wrinkles. So if inner peace doesn’t motivate you, maybe outer vanity will. Just get out there and smile. It’ll make the world a better place.