Why do I smile?
This last week was bumpy. I just couldn’t find peace. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried fighting, the outside forces just wouldn’t stop attacking.
All week long, things just kept getting worse. My patio garden, aka my sanctuary, has been off-limits and strewn around my yard/house while the owners paint the deck. Insurance investigators played phone tag all week while I waited to dispute an inflated auto claim. And work days stretched into nights, leaving me worn out and fatigued.
At first, I tried to stay calm. Everything changes. Life is never constant. But by Thursday, my normally good-natured self turned bitter, and everyday interactions took on a different tone.
An unreturned “Good Morning” from a neighbor was definitely a sign that Austin was indeed turning into Dallas. No return smile from a stranger signaled the downfall of society. And did that coworker look away as I walked by because she hated my edits?
Feeling broken as I went to bed, I thought, “Why do I smile? Why do I strive for peace? Does anyone even notice?” And then I gave up. “Maybe I should just let the world descend into chaos and hate.”
When I woke up, I decided to wipe the slate clean. It was a fresh start, a new day with twenty-four brand new hours ahead of me. Anything was possible.
On the bike ride to work, the trees stretched to the sky, welcoming the morning sun. Wildflowers smiled bright colors as they perfumed the spring air. And with a clear head, I realized that it’s not up to us to decide what gets thrown our way.
That afternoon, I found out a friend had committed suicide.
Sorting through the full spectrum of emotion, I struggled to understand what happened. I hadn’t seen him in a week and a half. Had he left any clues to his depression on Facebook? Could I have prevented this?
The truth is, we never know what someone is going through. Outward appearances can be deceiving. And sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we often forget that others might be going through the same thing.
Ultimately, smiles, good mornings, and waves are not about me. It’s selfish to expect or want anything in return. Instead, smiles transform you so you can remind folks of the joy and peace that surround us.
This quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh sums it up:
To smile is not to only smile for yourself; the world will change because of your smile.
Here’s the full passage from Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries:
After reading that, I went out and sat by my flowers. It all came together, and I made this note:
Just like a flower bringing peace and joy, I will rise above the muck. With my smile-bloom, the universe shines through me.
And that is why I smile.
- Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh — This is a great, easy-to-understand book to help beginners understand how to integrate mindfulness in your life.
- Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries by Thich Nhat Hahn — A nice collection of Buddhist sutras with commentary to help explain the sutras so you can apply them to your everyday life.