September 4, 2017 at 5:52 pm (My Marriage, Uncategorized)

I used to tell her “smile, its ok.” Sometimes I would shorten the command to just one word “smile.” I never understood her displeasure with this form of motivation. I couldn’t make the leap she tried to share with me that it was the epitome of my male privilege to tell her that she should be happy. It had been used or directed at me for most of my youth. Maybe my parents assumed that I should just be happy. Maybe my lack of a smile was a judgment or grade of my parents’ skills. Though, I never thought that when I would grin from ear to ear and say, “smile” to her. My prodding was an attempt to lighten the darkening mood that I would find her in. Socially, the same command was used, in public at times, though I do not remember ever shouting the word as a command. But non-the-less in the world around us I would ask her, beg of her and at times order her to smile. My continued prodding failed each and every time to secure the response that I so intensely desired. I tried changing the approach over time, yet found myself falling back on the most simplest of words.

In retrospect and with the barely scratched glasses of hindsight I have found that perhaps it was me who should have been smiling. That maybe that alone would have been enough. This of course leads you to the slippery slope, which is logic, right to the conclusions that my lack of strength was and is the reason that she could not find happiness with me. Where did my smile go? My friends will not dismiss my sarcastic side and my less that optimistic side, but they would have told you to a man and woman that I was going to grin at every opportunity. So where had my smile gone? I will not attempt to answer that question in the next page or so, nor will I play the victim, even thought the reading could be quite enjoyable. Instead I want to tell you about a vacation, an island, and a birthday party. Though not for me, it turns out that I might have walked off with the best gift possible. By now you must know what I found—a smile.

The pessimism and sarcasm in my life over powered my better angles and left me wondering with my head and eyes towards the ground. It was a beating that those pour creatures could not bear and they succumbed to the abuse, shackled and chained over time, the bonds as formidable as any trial that I had faced in my past. From this position, I found that the opportunities to smile, to truly embrace happiness where fading. Oh, I smiled, as I told others to do so. I picked my head up and did as I have told numerous others in their times of need. I got up each morning, made coffee, put my clothes on and continued to work as hard as I could each and every day. I told myself that I could work my way through this impending crisis only to find that the crisis never ended. I smiled as adults do, as the down trodden, as those who contemplate way worse endings than that of which I will find—a smile without happiness.

This was what I had when I landed in Puerto Rico. I used it as I toed the waters of kindness. I threw it out and assumed, wrongly, that I was receiving the positive responses that I remember, but then again what could I have remembered. My life from before was separate, cut off and left behind. My identity, friends and even at times my family were compartmentalized and removed for my self-preservation. And yes, here again we will avoid the slipper slide towards the obvious response. Why is it that we have friends, family or an identity if not for the sake of self-preservation? It is as close to a drowning man believing that the life jacket will weight you down.

Salt breezes, crashing waves, fine sand and a relentless sun greeted me each and every morning. I saluted all that I saw with a cup of coffee in one hand and book in the other. I would, in a weeklong ritual as spiritual as a first communion, great the day each morning, read my book, and patiently await some of the best friends that a man could ever ask for. Like the island I was visiting, I disconnected from the world that I had left, news, emails, and even my phone were sacrificed for the opportunity to worship along the beach, to paddle the luminescent coves and to dine with the company of whom all smiled on impulse. It was disconcerting at times to see how fluid and natural their happiness was, their interactions—all without blame, without each phrase being taken personally in the way that I had come to expect.

I am not slightly off topic. I practiced happiness and smiling with my friends, with the bar tenders. When I was uncertain I was doing it right, I practiced with the pool, with the ocean, and on occasion with the books that I was reading. At night I was patient and would look and find Orion along the horizon, his arms held high with the lion and the club. I would look to him, as I have for all of my life for a sense of strength and purpose. He shouted down at me the answer that I had needed. The heavens did not provide me with the herculean tasks that I had come to expect, but rather a clarity of purpose, using the simplest words, was and still is “to live.”

At this point I could hear in my mind the thousand times I had said this phrase, or had this phrase said to me; “smile.” The physical representation of living fully to me was the same. It echoed in my head and without thought, and slowly, my grin formed and widened. The cosmos had answered me, through the crashing roar of the waves, past the blinding glare of the sun, and the omnipresent winds. In the most clearest of voices possible and contrary to the work of Christopher Hitchens the cosmos shouted down to me to smile, to live, to remember. And surely enough I did. Without difficulty it came to me, without pressure I used it, and with the greatest of joys I found it in the response of those around me. I could see the light reflected off their faces and back to me. I smiled and found myself living again.



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