It's Okay to Smile

It’s Okay to Smile


Why do we wake up feeling more or less like ourselves some days? A week or so ago there was one of those mornings when I woke in a pretty deep funk, for no rational reason, my thoughts wrapping around each other in a chaotic mess of anxiety and gloom. On these days there is a nagging weight inside my chest trying to remind me that all is not okay, that I am not all right, that there is something to fear and that I am disconnected. On these days I don’t want eat, I want to isolate and I want to run hard enough to hurt. Sleep is impossible; there’s too much anxiety bursting from my chest along with the weight. I need to move.

As I sat with my decaf coffee and wrote  out some of these thoughts I realized the saddest part is that these funks kind of feel more like Me than the equally inexplicable cheery mornings. Sad because I am used to feeling a bit gloomy rather than cheery. The gloom is familiar. I spent years waking up with it every morning before school, years waking up with it knowing I would have to play at adulthood that day. While I know how the broody days will go, the cheery mornings worry me: something is missing, what needs to be fixed, why do I deserve to enjoy this day?

During this recent episode even my usual escape, getting outside for a hard workout, was tainted by my mind-funk and resulted in a mid-ride meltdown: tears, screaming, tossing of my bike… ugh. I got on with the day, and was able to pull myself out of the cloud with some more writing, more coffee, and an easy walk exploring the little Idaho town where we were camped. Still, that lingering feeling that there’s no reason to smile, no reason for a mood change, no reason to be happy that day kept whispering it’s ugly message in my head. My fear is that these mini-episodes will start stringing themselves together again, pulling me back down into the gorge that I’ve managed to stand on the edge of for the past several years. Must. Not. Go. There.

Once, while going through my divorce, my mother commented to me that I’ve never been a happy person. It sticks in my mind and years later still breaks my heart, as I know it breaks hers. More accurately, it’s that I feel I shouldn’t be happy. There are things wrong! I’m not perfect, I have crap I need to work on, I’ve put on weight, I’m unsuccessful at life and the world is in turmoil! What gives me the audacity to relax and enjoy the blessings that I’m lucky enough to experience? Shouldn’t I be worrying about all that other junk? Isn’t life supposed to be hard? If I enjoy today but the weight returns tomorrow, then what? Will I feel even worse? More often than not I find it physically impossible to put that smile on my face.

Sometimes I can be in the middle of a perfect place and still my head finds ways to convince me I should control my joy. Yesterday I found myself at 11,000 feet hiking through granite peaks and clear alpine lakes, completely in love with the day… until we realized I’d chosen a different trail than I wanted. No doubt this route was no less breathtaking than where I had intended to lead us but, ridiculously, my world came crashing down. I’d made a mistake. What if we missed something better? I messed up again. My smile faded and tears actually welled. Seriously? Something odious wants to challenge my lust for life, my joie de vivre, my enthusiasm and drive for awesome experiences. I’m proud to say I did not ruin yesterday’s adventure. The sidetrack we took ended at the foot of massive granite peaks dusted with snow and a fun, rocky scramble. Out in the dirt I can get out of my egocentric head and ditch self-centered thoughts and judgments. Out there I am relaxed, I feel I belong and I want to smile.

Today I wake for the fourth morning in a row with magnificent views of mountains that make me feel more at home than just about anywhere. My head is in a good space, too. I tell myself that allowing enjoyment into my life through relationships, food or outdoor play doesn’t mean I’m ignoring all the stuff I need to work on. No one is judging my accomplishments or failures. The mountains facing at me as I write this offer a deep sense of connection and a reminder that my disappointments and anxieties are truly trivial. They also remind me that I do possess an innate joy, I just need to stop fighting it. Maybe I do deserve to relax and relish where my divergent paths take me. Maybe even if I can’t figure out where I’m going, if I make mistakes, if I act like a fool sometimes, maybe it is in fact okay to smile

“Cause we’re the masters of our own fate
We’re the captains of our own souls
So there’s no need for us to hesitate
We’re all alone, let’s take control….

And a lust for life, and a lust for life
Keeps us alive, keeps us alive”

– Lust for Life / Lana Del Rey 

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