Other than the months surrounding placing my dad in the care home, I’d only been persistently sad, day after miserable day for a period of months, one other time in my life. It was my first year in college, my first experience away from home. I was living by myself in a drab apartment, in a new town, taking difficult math and science courses.
I was lonely and overworked and overwhelmed. It rained incessantly. A beloved grandmother-figure died.
I struggled hard to find my usual sunny disposition, and eventually gave up. I resigned myself to numbing unhappiness in a joyless world.
Calendar days marched by. I went to class, I came home, I studied. I lived in a dreary grey cloud of unhappiness and hard work.
And then one day, as I trudged down the sidewalk towards the bus stop, head down, eyes unseeing, I suddenly realized I was humming a song.
It literally stopped me in my tracks.
I took a quick internal inventory. My heart – it felt lighter! When did that happen?
And – unbelievable! – it seems I had a smile on my face! How long had it been there? I was smiling, of all things!
I don’t think I’d smiled in months.
I felt like the heavens were opening up, sunshine was streaming down. Sound the trumpets! Let the angels sing! I can smile! I wanted to dance right there on that sidewalk. I wanted to laugh out loud, to fall down on my knees in gratitude.
I wanted to burst into tears.
But I was afraid. What if a sudden move caused me to lose this precious smile, this inexplicably light heart? Was this just a fleeting anomaly, a cruel joke? I treated my smile like a fragile thing, something to be cherished and nurtured.
Carefully, cautiously, I continued my walk to the bus stop, head up. My smile grew stronger, more assured. My heart got lighter. My step became bouncier. My world grew brighter.
And that smile still beams today.
It stunned me when it happened – it’d been a long, long while –
My mouth got twisted, ends turned up – good God, is this a smile?
My mouth felt strange, it’d been so long since taking that position;
I lost my smile back when I lost my sunny disposition.
Too long engulfed in darkness, in a joyless world of grey,
I’d given up on happiness, and just survived each day.
I’d been resigned to gloominess, but maybe I was wrong.
I’d been resigned to numbness, ’cause I’d been so numb so long.
But wait! This dark and dreary cloud – it looks a little lighter!
A shaft of sunlight pierces through. My world’s a little brighter!
It’s easier to breathe again – a weight’s come off my chest;
I’ve energy to get more done, beyond just getting dressed.
I just might hum a happy tune! I just might laugh at stuff!
I just might cry, I’m so relieved, but jeez, I’ve cried enough.
I hold on to that little smile, the first since who-knows-when.
I feel myself return to life.
It’s good to live again.