(With acknowledgment to the writers of The Walking Dead)
It has been a very difficult year from start to finish, and yet I smile. Many of my friends and relatives have endured illnesses and even deaths, and yet I smile. I witnessed my husband lying on the floor of a bathroom, slurring his words, unable to lift himself, and yet I smile. I watched in horror as my city filled with flood waters while fifty one inches of rain fell relentlessly, and yet I smile. Dear friends have suddenly died leaving me with a longing for the fun times that we shared, and yet I smile. My mother-in-law fell and broke her arm while my father-in-law fell and bruised his body, and yet I smile. There has been a fire in my kitchen, damage to my once lovely patio, and yet I smile. In so many countless ways the last eleven months have brought an unfair share of misery all around me, and yet I smile. Why is this so? It is because I am still here, still standing, still fighting the good fight, and through all of the travails I have learned again and again how wonderful people are, and so I smile.
I cannot control what happens to me, but I am always able to determine how I will react. I change and become a slightly newer person with every event, good or bad, that overtakes me. I may choose to collapse in a state of sadness which I honestly often do, but I may also look for the tiniest drop of positivity in even the darkest moments. When I find that grain of hope, I smile. Sometimes there is little more that I might do than to turn the corners of my mouth upward and view my situation with a bit of humor. Laughter almost always makes me feel as good as a big ugly cry does. A release of my emotions provides me with the will and the power to tackle whatever job lies ahead, and when I can choose I prefer finding something, anything about which to smile.
I haven’t always been this way. For much of my life I bemoaned my fate. I was a sad sack filled with self pity. I felt beset upon because my father died. I pouted because I counted how much I lacked rather than glorying in what I had. I was dissatisfied with my appearance, my personality, all sorts of things. I was jealous of people who appeared to enjoy life in ways that seemed unavailable to me. In other words I found only the bad and almost never the good that was always present but I hidden from my view. Then one day I smiled. It felt empowering to concentrate on my good fortune rather than my bad luck. I learned to approach each day much as people do in November by counting my blessings, and so now I frequently smile.
The reality of my husband’s health problems is a bitter pill, and yet I smile because he is still here with me. I know the importance of enjoying each and every minute that I have with him. I savor our conversations, the things that we share. I need little more than his companionship to make me smile.
I marveled at the outpouring of kindness that has flowed over my city during and in the aftermath of the floods. I have cried when viewing the damaged homes, and yet I smile, because there is a can do spirit every place that I go. I now understand that I will never be all alone. There are enough compassionate people that surely someone will always step forward to help me in an hour of need just as they have assisted so many. I smile because ours is not an ugly world, but a beautiful one in which people sometimes falter. I now believe that love will always find a way to conquer even the most terrible tragedies.
I miss the friends and relations who have died, and yet I smile, because when all is said and done I have laughed and played and enjoyed my time with them. I have known their love and it is a treasure that will always be alive in my heart. Even knowing how I may hurt when they are gone, I would go gladly go back in time to repeat the moments that we shared. I would not want to change a thing about those amazing times.
I suppose that it is when things are the most difficult that we realize the significance of how wondrous our lives have actually been. I recall not so much the things that I have accumulated but instances when I watched my children running and playing so carefree and happy. I can almost hear the laughter of Christmases with my big crazy family, even though I don’t really recall the gifts that I received. I think of the people who demonstrated their love by attending my mother’s funeral. They may not think that I noticed that they were there to support me and my brothers, but I did, and so I smile. I see the mountains, rainbows, glistening lakes, towering forests, and falling snow in places that I have visited. Those images that live inside my mind make me smile. I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when I think of the faces of my students lighting up with understanding. It feels so good to know that I did something so important.
Yes, not just this year but much of my life has had its share of disappointments, failures, tragedies, losses, and yet I smile. I have calculated the positive aspects of my existence and they far exceed those that made me sad. I’m still watching the sun rise and set. I keep moving forward toward who knows what. I will no doubt be challenged in ways that I have not yet imagined. I will have to endure tough times, and I yet I smile. I am certain that I will always somehow find the strength and support that I need. People that I know or have not yet met will walk with me on my journey, especially if I find the wherewithal to smile and the courage and gratitude that will allow them to help me. I have found the secret to happiness, and so I smile.