Saturday, December 17, 2011

To Smile or Not to Smile

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.  ~William Shakespeare, Othello

When we don't feel good is it better to smile and pretend everything is OK?  Are we better off telling ourselves to ignore the pain so that we can get through the day?  And, is it better for those around us to believe the pain isn't there in order to lessen their worry?

I tend to be a positive person.  Someone, who according to others, is "strong, brave, and inspiring."  How is this brave, I ask, when I don't really have a choice?  I suppose lying in bed all day is an option but that paves a road to misery both for myself and everyone I love.  If fact, the craziest part about this disease is it's ability to attack on both ends of the scale.  One being the wrong food or too much of it, the other being no food at all.  I've seen others spiral down this path.  Staying in bed and not eating ends up causing so much pain and sickness they end up in the hospital.  Loads of sedatives and pain killers temporarily numb the pain until back in bed again to further continue this destructive cycle.

Me, I would rather face the beast head on.

So, most days I greet those around me with a smile.  In response I'm told how much healthier I look and how happy they are to see that I'm feeling better.  This can go two ways and the outcome is not always predictable.  I can put on the smile despite not feeling well and the action itself creates a positive vibe that overcomes the discomfort.  When others see this and respond positively, it feeds the feel good energy even more.   Or, the smile makes me even more exhausted and angry at the end of the day because no one understands this "invisible" illness that screams within.

Which brings us back to the original question.  Does it do any good for others around us to understand and witness this pain or is it better to live by "ignorance is bliss?"  I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer.  I do believe in not tipping the scale and finding balance.  In other words not doing one or the other full time.  If I decide to put on that smile, I'll hope for the positive outcome but also respect my boundaries and let others know if I'm not feeling 100%.  For example, when getting together with friends, I'm not always sure if I can make it to every store or stay for dessert.  At least I get some quality time in without the expectation or disappointment when its necessary to go home and rest.  This way I don't go from my feel great, energetic self, directly to being tired and misunderstood.  I find I have more energy when I'm not worried about telling everyone when its time to go.

As Paulo Coelho states above, use that struggle, that pain to find strength, and don't be afraid to share this occasionally.  The good friends and family in our life might appreciate it more than we think.

I want to leave you with one last quote, author unknown.

"Strength does not come from winning.  Your struggles develop your strength.  When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength."

A simple smile might just be strength in action.
: )

Check out this video on the "Hidden Power of Smiling"

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