“Smile,” my husband urged me as we were navigating a cart the size of a tanker through the insanely busy and crowded Costco. What he did not know is that I had been smiling for a while, excusing people who darted in front of my cart willy nilly, and stopping just short of crashing into oblivious shoppers who were only pretending to be less than mindful to get where they were going without appearing insensitive.
I was done smiling and excusing and dodging. The aggressive me who I generally keep under wraps was starting to make her appearance, and she was not pretty. She grumbles not quite under her breath, she darts seemingly obliviously in front of other carts, and when she gets to the check out and some guy with a cart full of fertilizer and topsoil scoots in front of her cart and beats her to the lane she was very clearly aiming for, she does not smile. In fact she frowns and gives him a raised eyebrow. He smiled goofily but does not relinquish the place he has stolen in line.
“We are never coming here on a Saturday again” I declare vehemently to my husband (I did not just say it, or state it, I declared it vehemently). He agreed, as he is not really fond of the aggressive me. But as I said before, he was not with me while I was being light-heartedly juggled and pushed around in the aisles of Costco. He was returning some jeans that had proven to be a size too big, so he was safely in the return line while I was in the jungle, smiling at my assailants.
I am generally a person who smiles at others—for no reason other than the fact that I like their reaction and subsequent reaction (which is usually a return smile). But I have my limits, and that limit was reached on Saturday. In spades. When I was younger I was often told to smile, which made me grimace in response. I often thought to myself that I was not a grinning idiot or someone who should be prompted to smile. Whose business was it anyway, whether I smiled or not? Then I caught a reflection of my unsmiling (arrogant, deluded, smug) self in the mirror and it was none too pleasant. So I started to smile more. Now I smile or try to half smile so that the havoc wrought by age (at rest my face unfortunately sports a downturned mouth which makes me look really grouchy) is at least partially compensated.
This brings me to the point of this column (which I am sure you were wondering about). The following phrase caught my attention in a book I just started reading over the weekend: “A smile is the passport kindness uses to travel to your eyes, your heart, your soul.” At one time this type of jargon would have made me gag at its sweetness. But having travelled down the road for a few decades, I now understand the truth of the words.
The book is called “Live Your Dash” and it is by Linda Ellis, the author of the “Live Your Dash” poem which was met with worldwide accolades. Not because the poetry sang, as it is to me not particularly lyrical, but because of what it counselled—that we “make every moment matter”. The dash of course is the little line between our birth date and the date of our death, and to quote her poem:
“To many, it is but a hyphen….
Marking time between the years,
but in that little dash, is a lifetime
of laughter, love and tears.”
So, I have determined that during my dash years, I should smile more (even if I look like a grinning idiot) and not use my “facial facade” as a closed gate. Ellis says quite wisely that some people believe that if they smile they are “opening that gate to an unwelcome world” when instead she counters, “sharing a smile is like aspirin for the soul. It helps remove the hurt from the inside out.”
I do think though, that if smiling more is going to be my reigning philosophy I should avoid Costco on Saturday mornings. Why set myself up for failure? Turning that frown upside down is not always possible when you are playing Dodge ‘em Carts.
Missed writing a poem
Yesterday, so here it is
Who knew that a month
Could be so long when you are forced
to write a poem a day (yes I know this is six and not five syllables, and the line above is 8 and not 7—so sue me Haiku Gods—we will just call this a poem)
Bang the drum
Light the candles
Wish some wishes
Make dreams come true
This week’s newspaper column is a bit self-serving–but your birthday only comes round once a year:
“You say it’s your birthday
Well it’s my birthday too–yeah
You say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you.” ~ The Beatles
Unlike Queen Elizabeth who shares the date of my birthday, there will be no grinning portrait of me to remember the day. Yesterday, a black and white photo of the Queen in all her grandmotherly glory was released commemorating her 88th birthday. According to the Associated Press on the CBC News website, the picture taken by British photographer David Bailey, is a “black-and-white photograph……showing the queen smiling broadly”—a side she does not often reveal to the public.
Shown wearing a three strand pearl necklace and what appears to be pearl and diamond earrings, she is sporting a dress designed by her personal assistant and senior dresser. Of the Queen, Bailey stated that he has “always liked strong women, and she is a very strong woman.”
In contrast, my birthday will be a private affair. Bailey, who is “celebrated for his portrait photography” of stars such as Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine and Johnny Depp will not be on my doorstep to take any candids of me, and neither will the Queen’s senior dresser be on hand to help me don her private designs (as the Queen has let her granddaughter-in-law Duchess Kate borrow her to help her dress for her many downunder walkabouts and George’s play dates).
The Queen will be celebrating her birthday on April 21st and then again in June with pomp and circumstance when the weather is a bit more fair. The ceremony in June is marked with a Trooping the Colour parade in London for her loyal subjects and eager tourists. My birthday will be celebrated by a few friends and family—some gathered to see me blow my candles out after making some inane wish, which according to two horoscopes that I read over the weekend, may come true. I am fairly sure the Queen does not depend on horoscopes to plan her future, but as with most things, I cannot really be sure.
Our shared horoscope in The Globe and Mail wants us to give “some serious thought to what we will be doing over the coming year because it could be one of the best ever.” The National Post was equally optimistic, stating that the sun will be entering our sign and boosting our energy for the next four weeks. Not only that but we “will attract favourable situations and important people” so we are to “milk it for all it is worth.” The Queen likely attracts “favourable situations and important people” all the time so I am pretty confident she does not need to do any milking. I, on the other hand, will take full advantage.
Birthdays are like another New Year’s to me — a time of reflection, a time to take a tally of life so far, and a time to think about what I would like to complete on my life (not bucket) list. The anniversary of our births can be a kind of wake-up call—another year under our belt, but another waiting in the wings, hopefully to take flight and not a nosedive. At this stage, “the arrogance of youth” is just a memory, but our younger selves still live on. I would like to think that I am wiser now, but what I am is more cognizant of the fact that I am not. The process of gaining wisdom is ongoing—and with every step forward, I recognize that I will never be a sage on a mountaintop handing out advice—I will always be a student, never the teacher.
My wish for the coming years? To live in the present (as hokey as that is, it is as most clichés are, true) and to plan for my future. Most importantly I will keep the lessons of the past, but leave behind the regrets. I will always be a dreamer but one with feet firmly planted on terra firma, someone who believes in the ethereal, but accepts reality (after wrestling it to the ground), and I will continue to try earn the mantle bestowed on the Queen by her photographer, David Bailey–that of a “strong woman”.
Hidden Easter eggs
Easter bonnet memories
Breath of spring fresh air
Skimming across the surface
The smooth flat stone finally sinks to the bottom~
But before it lands
It is caught by the undercurrent
And tossed and turned and rolled and lightly cuffed
Until it comes to its resting place
Half immersed in the sand, half exposed
Tranquil, serene, waiting for the next wave…..
Always sad today
The message of Good Friday
Has been delivered