Smiles are Contagious!
This week I have been reflecting on what it is that makes me smile. My husband lost his oldest brother, 81, last weekend after battling Parkinson’s Disease for over 20 years. His disease was caused by exposure to Agent Orange during two tours to Vietnam. We were blessed to have seen him last October. They live in Texas and we knew then we were saying good-bye. But, the finality of it is always difficult. Reflecting on life and death can send us down a rabbit hole of depression. But, for reasons I am beginning to understand…I found myself smiling during my reflective meditation time.
This man ALWAYS had a smile and a laugh for the world and that is what I remember most about him. He had the usual roller-coaster of a life ~ some absolutely stunning and beautiful moments and totally heartbreaking ones as well. LIFE with a smile…WOW. I know he is really smiling now, wrapped in unconditional love. Are we in control of our emotions? YES! Is it okay to grieve? ABSOLUTELY…I am doing that alongside my husband. But at the same time…a smile can sit right beside my tears!
Smiles don’t always just come. At times, it is an automatic response. It can be habit, or unfortunately as you might notice some people really have to work hard at it. Other times our emotions drive the smile or any other expression on our face. One day awhile ago, I decided to do a smile day. I smile a lot anyway, but that day I helped myself think about it by putting a smile on a piece of paper to remind me at intervals throughout the day. Here’s one for you in case you decide to try this. By the end of the day, I was laughing…not just smiling! Such a beautiful healthy exercise.
It turned out to be an absolutely AMAZING day! I found that my mood lifted quite frequently because I was getting smiles in return all day long ~at the gym, in the stores, out for a walk, and at my husband who finally asked me what in the world I was smiling at all day long. I do believe for myself it taught me a number of things.
- The act of smiling can lift another person up. It feels wonderful in return knowing you had NO agenda, just kindness.
- The act of smiling when NO ONE is around improves your own mood by activating your heart-brain connection.
- Smiles can quickly become a way of staying in the present moment. I found I spent more time in observation and noticed so much more around me. I also observed that many people had NO interest in smiling. Sad.
- There are many forms of smiles. I realized I often used a softer, warmer smile as I engaged in listening with interest in someones statement or story. I used a wider smile when I was entertained or found something funny. And I love it when our choir director reminds us in a humorous way to get those smiles on our faces when we sing! No one behind him knows he did it.
- I decided this was a GREAT habit. I’ve been nurturing it ever since and it has turned into a habit I love.
We have been working on meditation, placing a practice in our lives. I needed my meditation time to be lengthy all this week as I struggled with all of the right words to share with the family about the death of a loved one. When Doug and I sat talking for hours about his brother, death and life, I remembered that a soft sharing smile is perfect. I know you are realizing that LOVE is right there inside of you waiting for you to open up the gift and spread it around in your life. I keep opening that gift so I can share it with those around me that really need it right now. And of course, that is a gift for myself as well.
I look at these hearts as they intertwine in each other and that is how our love sometimes winds around another. Sometimes it will appear misshapen when we encounter someone difficult to love. We know love is complicated…but let’s face it, we ALL need it desperately. I now make a habit to smile as I think of any person in my life, knowing that they are always doing the best they can at any given moment.
I have heard some people say they loath the holiday because it is so fake and candy is hardly what we need. Well…as I pondered why I have nostalgic and warm feelings about the day I knew it was because of my amazing family. Our mother always made it special in so many ways. Special red foods, home made decorations and valentines for each of us. She loved using lace. She saved some very old valentines from our grandmother’s era and hers…I kept some and I LOVE getting them out and having a good chuckle and smile over them. My grandchildren used to play with these when they were younger. Someday I’ll give those away to them…and I hope they remember our traditions over the years too.
Have you ever wondered why we place certain photos of our families or friends on our desk and not others? I sat down to write this post and there in front of me on my computer screen was my son, his wife and my two grandchildren. They are all wearing beautiful smiles! Even knowing my son is in a dangerous part of the world…I can still smile and send a loving message through my heart. I know they arrive. And there in a frame is my middle son with my husband in San Francisco…smiling so beautifully because they were so happy to be together! And on my laptop screen is another photo of my older son, his smiling wife… and even our two teenage grandchildren looking at me with those smiles that can melt a heart! Ah yes…it did JUST that! We use that phrase “melting heart” because a sensation goes through our body that is very REAL. Our environment around us is so important to nurture into a sanctuary.
Love expressed and felt in our hearts can literally change our whole body’s reaction to tough times! Even smiling when it seems there is not much to smile about can make a difficult day into a much more meaningful one!
Marj makes me smile every time I walk by this totally fun sculpture at her house! It’s VERY fun to study. I smile because I know it was Anne who loved cows…and the thought of her makes me smile. I picture her smiling down on her family sending love with a laugh for all of us.
So, who will YOU give a smile to today? I hope you will start by looking in that mirror and smiling broadly at the image in the mirror!
SMILES are contagious!
EMOTIONS are contagious!
LOVE is contagious!