I overheard a conversation between my daughters a while back that was a bit concerning. One of them was trying to strengthen her argument by providing a series of specific examples. Among them, “Because she’s too old and grumpy.”
The “she” is me, as if I had to spell that out for you.
I thought nothing of it at first. Eh, whatever. As time went on though, it started to bother me more and more. Is that really what my daughter thinks of me? A crotchety old hag? Maybe I should grow my chin hairs out, get a bunch of cats, and call it a day? That would probably be easier than trying to defend myself at this point, but I’m generally not one to take the easy way out. Besides, I hate cats. So there’s that.
Truth be told, I was a bit offended. When searching for words to describe myself, grumpy would not top the list. Indifferent maybe, but not grumpy. I definitely don’t walk around all day humming Disney tunes while sporting a permagrin, but I don’t think that qualifies me as a crusty grump. I will even go on the record right now and say that I can be a really fun person when the circumstances are just right. I am certainly not bubbly. Quite frankly, that kind of personality is off-putting to me. I don’t know why. It makes me uncomfortable for reasons I have yet to explore. In all honesty, I think I would choose grumpy over bubbly if my hand was forced, but that doesn’t really add to my case, so let’s move on.
My thought process shifted back to the accusatory person in question. The spade who called me a spade, behind my back no less. There is no doubt that we could both benefit from smiling more. Several interventions come to mind. Maybe we should both take a laughter yoga class? Maybe I should tell her some jokes or learn to juggle? Maybe I should serve chocolate chips as a side dish at every meal? Maybe I should sit down with her and demand specific examples that led to her disappointing and very sour conclusion? I’m sure that would end well.
Maybe I should get out of the house?
Twist my arm.
I went to a seminar the other day. I have to do it every once in a while in order to keep the professional license that I haven’t practiced under in years and probably won’t again anytime soon. But you never know, so I go through the motions. Just in case.
I rarely have any expectations regarding the subject matter. Of course I choose topics that are loosely related to my past professional and personal interests, but at the end of the day, a fish is a fish is a fish, and these things almost always end the same. A napping marathon with, if you’re lucky, free bagels and the opportunity to pee alone at designated break times. It’s nice.
I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but as it turned out, this particular course was not only engaging, but (Gasp!) enjoyable, sans bagels! It surely helped that the good doc splits his time between being an expert in Applied Biopsychology and a wait for it…successful stand-up comedian.
No shit. http://www.drbrianking.com
Regardless, the topic couldn’t have been more appropriate given my current status quo. The objective was to discuss evidence that supports the age old idea that laughter may indeed be the best medicine. I’ll spare you the scientific details. Partly because I’m lazy and don’t want to cite references, but mostly because I don’t have the delivery skills to make the content seem even a little bit interesting. That said, the take home message was clear.
Lighten up, laugh more, and pass that shit around the circle, because odds are, you will live longer as a result.
Sounds good to me. Who doesn’t want to live longer? Sign me up.
The whole thing got me questioning the reasons I don’t smile more often. It’s not hard. It’s actually pretty easy. I’m doing it right now, as I type this very sentence. Granted, it’s creepy, and forced, and currently making me a bit uncomfortable, but it’s a smile, and apparently even a forced smile has the potential to positively influence our health and wellbeing.
Case in point, did you know that based on the manner in which you hold a pen in your mouth, you can trick your brain into thinking you’re either sad or happy? Turns out our ridiculously complex brain has the motivation and energy of a slug. It thrives on habitual responses. In other words, it’s fucking lazy. Obviously I am over-simplifying things here, but I find it fascinating that I can literally be pissed off at the world, position a pen in my mouth in such a way that activates the smiling muscles in my face and VOILA, a portion of my brain thinks I’m jolly based on the position of my face and releases a little happy juice as a result. It’s measurable. I don’t know how, but it is. God bless smart people.
It’s not very often these days that I am afforded a chance to actually apply the knowledge that I learn in these courses to my everyday life of boogers and permission slips and temper tantrums, but as luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself. I seized the moment with open arms when my beloved spade of a child was in the middle of having her 487th moment of the day. Because she shares her mother’s affinity for absolute soul sucking stubbornness, I go head to head with her several times a day. It always ends the same. She’s pissed, I’m pissed, and we both proceed to slowly drown in our sea of unhappiness and despair, only to do it all over again twenty minutes later.
Regardless, on this particular day, I was fully committed, and it was not easy. I let her come at me with everything she had. I stood there, looking at her looking at me, waiting for me to predictably reciprocate in the normal manner of disgust and anger.
I walked away, returned seven seconds later, gave her a pen with specific instructions on how to appropriately hold it in her mouth, and proceeded to watch her actually, albeit reluctantly, do it.
She looked so unbelievably ridiculous standing there all pissed off, red faced, and stoic with that pen in her mouth. I instantly smiled, which was not my intention, but it felt nice, so I ran with it. It almost turned to laughter, but I fought the urge. I didn’t want to be rude.
I felt my misplaced grin gradually begin to take over my entire face (and by extension add at least three minutes to my life) as I offered the following insightful words to my disgruntled and slightly befuddled child.
“Everyone’s a winner honey. Keep the pen.”