Last night someone asked me what my mantra in life was. What made me smile? What made me who I am? Without thinking, I told her that I didn’t have one. She persisted, asking me I should have some sort of Mantra, as I always ‘seem’ so happy and positive. I just couldn’t think of one.
This got me thinking what is a Mantra? According to some, it is “a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone's basic beliefs”, and did I really not have one? She asked me how I managed to keep a smile on my face, as she says she noticed that on whichever occasion she had met me, I had a smile on my face, I didn’t think this was special at all as a smile always came to me instinctively. This lady pointing this out on this particular day of all days was rather ironic, as just earlier that day I had been in courts (long story- and no I am definitely no lawyer) and had been told off by the presiding judge “This is a court, and you cannot smile here!” and I thought to myself what a miserable lady she must be, and what judicial system would think to smile was deemed disrespectful? So, on the same day, someone thought of smiling in a positive way and another in a negative way. It is all perspective, I suppose.
This got me thinking…when do I smile? Why do I smile? Most times my mind is in a whirl, I see the dark clouds of depression and anxiety surrounding me, smothering me, choking me, and yet that is something I will not give up or lose – my smile. Some days, I feel I have lost everything, there is no colour, everything seems bleak, the road I see ahead seems long, filled with obstacles, ( Please excuse the drama) in short I do not feel happy, in fact I feel downright miserable- but I will not lose the smile on my face. In fact, I will smile, because my heavy heart will eventually follow and ‘smile’ too.
This was when I realised, just something like a smile can keep you positive, make others around you happy, and also you, as a consequence of this. My religion taught me that ‘ even smiling is charity’ to meet your fellow in humanity with a smile was goodness. I also have a habit of smiling and greeting animals, which some think is weird, but heck! Who can’t smile at that cute Lab, holding his own leash and walking himself, or that cute kitten playing hide and pounce? This was then my mantra ‘ smile!’ A smile is the only thing that you can give, it is free, and it doesn’t cost you anything, but can make a difference in someone’s day, your day as well. The power of a smile is not to be discounted. I am not talking about put on smiles; I am talking of the genuine article here, Smile from the heart, from the soul, from deep within you. And when you cannot smile from deep within, start with your lips curling up at the two ends, a smile on your face and your heart will surely follow.
For some, it can seem impossible. How can one smile when so many things are happening around you, terrible things, sad things, depressing things, things are going bad all around you, and your life seems like it is falling apart? I say smile despite this. There is a term that states, “Fake it till you make it”, for people who cannot see anything in their lives that makes them smile at that moment- this term can apply. Believe me; sometimes on the hardest days, when you feel there is absolutely nothing that can wrench a smile out of you, this is when you flash your pearly whites. And if they are not too pearly or white, its is the smile people see, the smile that extends from mouth to eyes, nature’s very own botox, fills out the face and gives so much character. When you meet someone with a smile, it makes you feel better, and you may brighten someone’s day(heck, you can brighten your own day) and this with the simplest of manner, it has a trickle-down effect, a smile is catching. Meet everyone with a smile, from the beggar on the road, security guards and cashiers at Cargills, to a judge at courts (you run the risk of getting told off here) Smile not only to help your self but also to help others.
Sometimes a smile can make all the difference in another person’s day. When you smile at another, even a stranger, the instinctive response is to smile back (although I have met quite a few who just don’t smile back- smile in spite of this) this brings a connection, some joy, even if it for a fleeting second. You may think this is nothing, what can a silly smile do? But it can make all the difference to another. I have been told on many instances how a person’s smile changed the initial reaction to a situation they would have otherwise had. A policeman told me a story, where he had stopped someone for crossing the red light, an offence, he, the policeman said he was all ready for a fight, as usually people would argue and be generally nasty, he said he was surprised, no shocked when the gentleman behind the wheel had rolled his shutter down, smiled and greeted him and proceeded to apologize. He said he let him off with a light warning, all because he was taken aback when he was greeted and smiled at. I asked him, it was only a smile, and he had broken the law, he said “ A smile is a valuable thing, when we are stuck day in day out directing traffic, in the hot sun, and the rain, with people cursing us and glaring at us- he smiled, he greeted, he was a decent gentleman.” He said the smile made him feel calm, and smile back despite the infraction. Another time, a lady who begs on Old Cotta Road said “ People don’t see us, we are invisible, we are not acknowledged, no eye contact is made, they look away like we are lepers, we too are human, it is not through any fault of ours we have ended here, the tables can be turned and they could be in our place.” . She proceeded to thank me for seeing her and smiling at her and taking the time to speak to her. I was embarrassed and said it was nothing “You acknowledged me with a smile. This made me happy”.
For those who think that I am being idealistic, stupid or silly ( or as Idris Elba sings – “Boasty” trying to get ahead in life by patting myself on the back- take your pick), I ask you to try it. A smile is something you have to give if nothing else. Give it freely, even to those who don’t reciprocate, even those who don’t seem to deserve it (my neighbour who gives grumpy a good name is completely foxed whenever I smile at her ). Even if you don’t feel like it- smile! The upward curve of your mouth will lift your heart and your spirits, and you can start a chain reaction of smiles. Make the world a better place- start with a smile! As Annie said, “ You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”