The Smile Game

I’ve had this streak of happy days since Christmas. I don’t mean extraordinary things have been happening since the end of December, I mean I’ve been in a great mood nearly all day every day. It’s been quite lovely. I’m not sure what to credit for this streak but every morning I’m not upset about driving the hour into work, or if there’s a little traffic on the way home or even some scary person on the phone who thinks it’s my fault something didn’t go there way (okay, that’s a little annoying). I’ve been…even.

There are a few things looming in the background that I’m not excited about, or even fear, but I’m not focusing on them. And this could just be pre-mommy euphoria, but I am just enjoying it. I’m nervous it will go away, actually.

Anyway, this brings me to one of my fears: People. I am scared of most people. Perhaps it’s their unpredictability, or knowing that each one is judging me at any moment. It makes me timid, more than I’d like to be. I feel as if I’m perceived as younger, or dull, or the worst of all three, stupid, because I don’t like speaking up or bringing attention to myself. So, what I do, instead of giving people a chance right off the bat, is I judge them first. I assume things about them that probably aren’t true (although, to be honest, I’m really good at sizing people up. When I’m not talking, I’m observing…)

The flip side of me, though, believes in kindness and beauty and patience. And I try really hard to fight my fear of people with this kindness thing. I believe that when kindness is extended, it will come back. Maybe not immediately, or in the exact same way it was extended, but it’ll come back.

Here is how I know this. Many mornings, or early afternoons, I go to Starbucks to suck down a small decaf because not drinking coffee is by far the hardest part of pregnancy…and maybe sleeping. I need to park in the back lot because it’s a busy strip mall and I bump into about two or three strangers on the way inside.

Where I work is quite affluent. The women are toned, dressed well, and always look like they are in a hurry. The men are suited, their hair is slicked, and they are usually on cell phones. They’ve all got places to be, people. Time is coffee.

Before I became pregnant and stopped caring about wearing the same pair of stretchy black pants to work four times a week, I used to be able to slightly keep up with these busier-than-life-folk, although I would never consider myself one of them; I did look a little the part. (Forget about now)

Now, when I walk to the front doors, my self esteem is a tad lower. I don’t like looking up too much but pep talk myself into it and when I catch someone’s eye, I automatically smile. It’s something I’ve always done. This can be a tricky act. It’s unleashing a little of myself out there with no guarantee of return on investment. And the split second before I let a smile rip, I judge.

Oh, look at this one. She’s got her shiny patent leather purse and high heels. I bet she’s just dying to work the 75 hours the office has lined up for her this week. What do you think is in that purse…a block of pure gold? SHE’D HAVE TO, TO AFFORD HER…

And then I smile.

Let me tell you, nine times out of ten, they smile back, or they’ve already caught my eye first and are making the first move. It’s not the I’m-busy-fake-smile. They look like pretty genuine smiles, like, the we’re both getting coffee at the same place…all right. I ran into three of them this morning before drinking my decaf.

I am hoping my streak of happiness lasts a bit longer, but if I start to go down, I’d like to remember this: If you’re feeling down, and I know this is difficult, extend some kindness. When it feels like there isn’t a drop of anything left to give and your fuel light is blinking and dinging, just try. I mean, listen, don’t be a freak. If smiling isn’t your thing, then don’t smile. Nothing is worse than a fake smile or someone telling you to BRIGHTEN UP! Extend it in some other way that’s natural.

It’ll come back and each smile (or whatever) will give you milligrams of fuel to restore your meter.