Smiling as a Religion

I remember the moment I decided to make smiling a religion.

I was a junior at Georgia Tech and spent most of my days perpetually pissed about something. Homework was hard. Professors were mean. There was never enough time to party. You know, real world problems.

I wish I could say that I had this dramatic epiphany, but it wasn’t that deep. I was on my way to the student union after taking a test, and I tripped over a moving broom. The guy pushing it caught me right before I fell. I smiled (embarrassed) and thanked him. “Wow, “he said, “you should really smile more often. A frown will bring your spirits down to the ground, and never let you see the good things all around.” Amused, I threw him the peace sign and walked away…this time with a smile. It changed my world.

Almost seven years went by before I heard that line again. I was driving back to Atlanta from my hometown. My father had been diagnosed with stage four cancer, and the doctors had done all they could. From the moment I heard the news, smiling started to seem kind of silly and stupid. My face literally ached from trying. Daddy was my best friend. I had no one to talk to… no one to walk me down the aisle. He would never see my kids. What was there to smile about?  But just as I was about to abandon my simple religion, I hit the State line and picked up the faint sounds of a familiar song.

Ain’t it funny that the way you feel shows on your face, and no matter how you try to hide it states your case. Now a frown will bring your spirits down to the ground, and never let you see the good things all around.

For another sixty miles, I played my favorite songs at deafening volumes and forced myself to count all the good. Twenty plus years with my amazing father. Escaping a career in engineering that simply wasn’t my calling. Freedom. Even if I lived to be 100, there would only be so many minutes left. How was I going to spend them… perpetually pissed?  Smiling, though painfully hard, seemed like a logical choice.

I’m no longer beholden to FM radio and a 1985 Pontiac Sunbird’s sound system. I can carry my music with me. I’ve been told it’s dangerous to walk through Downtown Atlanta with music blaring in your ear, but Monday morning calls for Earth, Wind, and Fire. Plus, I love it when the corner dry cleaner can see me mouthing the words and gives me back the hook with a smile.

Happiness is serious business and requires inspiration.

So, I’m back to counting the good on the downbeat today. Healthy children. Brave husband. Great work ahead of me. Almost 49 years behind me.

You can’t shake me – the way I feel today. Come tomorrow, I’ll feel the same old way.

If you know the song…sing along.