Monday, December 14, 2009

Sufficient for Any Season - III (conclusion)

Wounded Enough to Smile

Now all that I have told you so far is a multi-layered thing. And it is only now, in the writing of this, and in present reflective contemplation of my past, that I attempt to peal back the layers to find what drove me to be the kind of person I was.

And regrettably, if only somewhere along the way, I had done the level of inner reflection I now do, I could have done so much better. I could have been, in my youth, so much more the optimist, more the happy, more the dispenser of (sincere) smiles.

But all I can do now is discuss the experience and ponder over what might have been. A useless exercise so many will say, but if there is a story in it, I am a story teller, and I will tell the story.

And so, from that point on, rather than smiling, I took on a wounded countenance. As a teen I used my wounded countenance to flirt with cute boys. Of course it was a wounded countenance with sad, sad, eyes, and no hint of a smile. That proved to be a delicate exercise to get just right, the wounded look, without a scowl.

Now I can hardly bare to write this next sentence – in retrospect, it was such a dumb philosophy, but all I could calculate as a worthy measure at the time. The theory when it came to flirting? Make them feel sorry for you and they’ll ask you for a date. Be humble, be quiet, reserved, and act wounded.

But now I’m going to leave that and fast track ahead to one brief period of enlightenment along my long road of, for lack of a better word, stupidity. Not too many years ago, I encountered an old flame whose looks are now charred, as mine are, by gray hair, wrinkled skin, and the physical wasting and weakening ravages of time.

Now way back then, he was a prize, or so I thought, and so I looked him over and wondered what drew me to him. And immediately I realized it was his smile. His perpetual smile.

And wouldn’t you know it? Right then, in that chance meeting, so many years later, he handed me the gift mentioned in the beginning of this rant – that old familiar smile. And I felt the joy that the gift of a sincere (though somewhat foolish), smile can give. Jolted me back to the original story we discussed at the beginning of this rant.

So now I’m back in a space wavering between smiles and wounded looks. The wounded look cannot continue. I am forced to return to the original act of dispensing with unlimited generosity an abundance of smiles. Not smiles of big God grace, or movie-star pasted, or ‘see my nice teeth’ (though my new dentures are very nice indeed), but smiles of absolutely nothing more than true sincerity. Fundamentally because I have reached a point where I have nothing else to flash that will create a gift-exchange of joy equal to that discussed in a small classroom so very long ago.

And added to that, life has a fragility now that could cause it to so easily break, that it is silly to take it too seriously. And furthermore, I have so many more reasons to smile than look wounded. Because even without the beauty of my youth, and even with the pain of rheumatism and the discouragement of the sameness of routines and the bothersome chores and difficulties of each day, I have reasons to smile.

I smile now because the sky is so beautiful, the season so precious, the snow so white and fresh, and the weather all that it promised to be and more (Brr…). I smile because big scary global warming is happening, but not where I live.

On top of that, I smile because I have the comfort, security, and confidence that I understand where I once was, and where I am now. Truly, that is a reason to smile.

I smile too because compassion is no longer a happening. Try as I might, I can’t even put on a wounded look anymore. You have to be fresh and vibrant to do that.

A failing thing cannot apply a wounded look sufficient for anyone to notice.


Pauline said...

"A failing thing cannot apply a wounded look sufficient for anyone to notice. "

Oh yes it can, but thank goodness you're not practicing the wounded look any longer. I love that you've come to see where you were and where you are now and that now seems better.

Recently the fellow I had a crush on in a previous comment passed away. His nickname? Happy. And guess who gave it to him... yours truly, the wounded one. I was trying to tell myself something even back then. Good thing we listen to ourselves occasionally, Roberta!

joared said...

Interesting that your smiling was a flirting school tool, as I suppose that is part of the smile's purpose. I over-learned at a pre-school age to be careful about smiling at the opposite sex of any age. A mere smile can be interpreted by recipients as conveying meanings quite differently from the smiler's intent.

I could write more about my take on smiling, but will leave this to you -- so many kinds of smiles among the real and not-so-real.

Roberta S said...

Hi Pauline, you are very special. Always your comments make me smile whether you agree or disagree. Magically, though physically absent, your delight in all things in nature and life is transmitted to readers of your words.

I'm convinced when your mouth isn't curved into a smile, your personality is still laughing hard enough to be heard. The reference you made to your friend 'Happy' was very cute. (and of course I laughed when I read it).

Roberta S said...

joared, there you go again pointing out something that I totally missed. I had forgotten that business of never smiling at the boys. Yes, indeed, it was strongly emphasised in my day as serious flirting. Oh yes, in the pre-adolescent years, I smiled, I laughed, but never when looking directly at the boys. Those smiles were off to the side with other friends to show I was a fun person. But never in close or direct contact with a boy. My mother, if she saw, or found out, would give me another long sermon about Jezebel.

I think if your imagination and memory has been stirred, by the aspects of smiling I have missed or those intimate to your own life, you should write a blog about it. There really isn't much down-to-earth discussion about "smiling" these days.

Alan G said...

After reaching the conclusion of your life-long experience with smiling, I think we can safely conclude that indeed, your portrait reflected in the previous discussed sketch certainly projects the semblance of a Mona Lisa smile.

And being a person who loves laughter and the joys brought by the lighter side of life myself, it's good to know you eventually opted to return to the fold of the 'smilers'.

Pauline said...

We really must get together someday - no doubt we'd smile (a lot) and our laughter at the foibles of the human species would be heard round the world :)

as an aside - my word verification is mouse! Nature abounds, even in the blogosphere...

Roberta S said...

Alan, Thanks for the comment. Thanks for the smile. I smile more.

Roberta S said...

Hi Pauline. The mouse, oh yes that dear little mouse. Cupped in your hand, bending to your will, running, jumping, clicking.

And that first funny thought - ditto. My only dread? When I laugh too much my stomach hurts, tears roll from my eyes, and I can't get my breath.