I used to smile more. I don’t know that there was a significant change in the number of tears I’ve shed, but they were nonetheless different. A good deal of the difference no doubt relates to the injuries and other medical dookie I’ve gone through in the past year. Those who follow me have probably already heard me whining about all that, so there’s no need to shout, “Gloria, he’s going on about his brain again!” So with apologies to Gloria, I have to confess this post may touch upon that theme again. But this time will be, well, different. At least I think it will be.
Because I’ve been ramping up the smiles lately, while the tears are much more similar to the tears I formerly used to paint my cheeks. I suppose I should explain.
Yes, let me explain.
I have always been a fan of smiles. There is something magical about seeing a perfect smile pointed in your direction. It cleanses the soul. It has a temperature – it is at least warm and sometimes it’s downright hot. And ever since elementary school I’ve known that I’m capable of eliciting these wonderful gifts, mostly by being a wise ass, but occasionally because I’ve said something or written something that just made people smile. For whatever reason. Probably wise assery.
Now having said that, I must confess that my smile – that is to say the physical parameters thereof is something of which I am not a huge fan. My front teeth have been crooked since they usurped the home of my formerly just fine baby teeth smile. I don’t like the way it looks.
Of course, having said that, I still confess that although I don’t want to see my smile, I like everything about the way smiling feels. I like the cause-and-effect aspect, I like declaring joy, and I like the fact that if I do it enough all at once my cheeks begin to hurt.
Unfortunately during 2022, the year of my big medical crisis, (“Gloria…”), I didn’t smile much at all. Part of it was the amount of work I was doing just to try and talk my brain into functioning as it had before. I had problems composing cogent thoughts, let alone anything resembling literature. I had (and still have) a much more difficult time remembering things. I also don’t remember things as well. (In the words of one of my favorite cartoon characters, “That’s a joke, son!”
Life, in general, was frustrating as hell. There were also physical manifestations to which I offered a full-fledged thumbs down. Balance, body temperature regulation, and a few others were all haywire. And while all of these haven’t gone away, 2022 was a fine year for learning how to cope with them. I still get dizzy very easily, and I still get hot flashes. On a walk with Miles (my dog and emotional support creature), he had a moment of puppy energy (even though he’ll be 5 years old in October) and in a speedy prance and dash performance got his leash all tangled around my legs. I now realize there are many safe ways of undoing that, but at the time I thought it would be a good idea to just spin in the direction that would extricate me. It was not a good idea, as I instantly became so dizzy I fell. Most of my body landed comfortably in a few inches of fresh, newly-fallen snow. My face, however, hit the sidewalk. My mug was far from pretty before the fall, and afterward, I looked positively hideous like my twisted smile had taken over my entire visage.
This is not the sort of thing you’re going to smile about. It just ain’t!
But I’m smiling now. And I smile frequently. At all sorts of things.
For example, I’ll refer back to Miles Davis, (dog’s first and middle). When we walk we do so in three distinct stages. First, when we leave the apartment he runs ahead of me. I am required to have him on a leash when we walk, and I always do, slipping on his harness right before we leave. So you might think his running ahead would be problematic. It’s not. Because he doesn’t pull on me at all. He just scoots ahead and then begins the all-important job of smelling EVERYTHING he sees. Today for example he spent a huge portion of the walk smelling his own paw prints from our walk last night, earning him several good-natured “Dude, those are your prints!”
He is also seeking the perfect spot to do the main portion of his #1, which he thoroughly moistens, let’s say. But this brings us to the second stage which is when he walks beside me. He does this until finding a perfect place to deposit his #2. While this positioning doesn’t both him at all, it is the one time during the walk that I have an actual job, which is to put that in a plastic bag, tie it off, and throw it away. I’ve become most adept at this. And on the trail we walk, we encounter two different outdoor trash receptacles. Of course, he often doesn’t find his ideal place until we’re well past both, but I don’t sweat that because I just take it to the trash room in our building. Nicey-nice. All gone.
After he goes, however, we move into stage three, when he slows down and walks behind me the rest of the way. “Dragging his ass,” is my official designation.
BUT the point here is that the regularity (no pun intended) makes me smile. I smile when he runs ahead. I do it again when he walks beside me, (he sometimes smiles at me during this phase as well, as if he’s saying, “Oh yeah! You’re here too. Cool!” And I smile when he lags behind, as though this will make the walk last much longer than it really does.
It’s easy. In fact, it’s inevitable. I’m going to smile.
There are many other things that put a smile on my face, and since I spend a huge chunk of my time alone, no one is there to see it and say, “Eww. Ugly smile.” So I suppose I don’t say that either. Music makes me smile. Television humor (and sometimes I’m the only one seeing that particular humor) makes me smile. Hearing from my far-flung online friends makes me smile.
So my smile has returned and that’s good. Actually it’s better than good, but we’ll get to that.
To avoid paying the lack-of-honesty tax, I’ll admit at the outset of this section that I probably cry more often than I smile. Okay, I definitely do. (Beat it, tax collector!) I suppose I always have. Certainly a significant portion of my adult life. And prior to now, which includes all of 2022 obviously, I have cried plenty.
Last year I cried about the things I couldn’t do, or at the very least believed I could no longer do. Chief among these beliefs/fears was that I’d lost the ability to write. Which is to say, write to the best of my ability, which I’ve always considered somewhat above average. I believed the loss of memory and just the wonky way it worked, in general, meant I’d lost that skill. Boo hoo, (or “Waaah” as my friend Aven would say).
I spoke above of a disproportionate time spent alone. This is an unavoidable fact of life, but it still made me cry. It did so more often than I’m comfortable admitting, but there you are. I just did. Discomfort be damned. Waah.
I suppose I felt that someone whose life had been so altered had a right to cry. To sob, to bellow out, to moan… all of it.
So now that I’ve told you all of that, I suppose it would be fair of you to call this post what we ex-hippies used to call “a real downer.” (Sometimes we used “bummer,” but you get the gist.) Less smiles more tears. No haha, extra waah.
IV. Conclusion – “What’s Happening Now”
Things are changing. How so? you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s 2023, (and if this comes as a shock to anyone reading this let’s get with the times I guess). It’s a new year. It’s been a full year since the medical rough times started. As Gloria could probably tell you my heart stopped while I was outside, causing me to fall and fracture my skull and mess up my brain. At the time I had no idea my heart was involved at all. I thought I’d slipped on ice. But that January incident was what began all my issues. It wasn’t until March that we found out about the heart, and now I’m the proud owner of a pacemaker, so that sort of stuff won’t happen anymore.
But it’s 2023. Seems like I’ve heard that somewhere. Regardless, things are changing. Some of the specific issues, the hot flashes, the memory, etc. have yet to resolve, but the fact that I’ve had a year to learn how to deal with all of it makes it easier to get through. Less frightening, even if it’s still aggravating.
As a result, I’m smiling more. Some are what I’d call “little things,” but even things that didn’t necessarily make me smile before are causing me a goofy grin instantly. Miles still gets the majority of them pointed his way, but a good many are “just because,” and no one witnesses them at all. But I feel them again. I feel them welling up, I feel them happen, and on a good day, I feel my cheek muscles start to ache a bit.
Oddly I’m crying more, or at least as much. But where it was fear and disappointment before, now it tends to be tied to some deep feeling. For example, I’m listening to music as I write this and one of the songs was “Fire and Rain,” by James Taylor, a song I’ve loved since the first time I heard it. And as I’m listening the tears start. Granted it’s a sad song, but there are lots of sad songs. It was the depth of the agony that he put into that grabbed my heart and squeezed out some tears. He always thought he’d see her again, and he didn’t. Not only is that an inherently painful situation, but my ability to relate made it even more so. Damn, that song hurt today. Not solely because of James’ pain, but because of my self-same experience(s).
And it’s not just sad songs that make me cry. A particularly soulful guitar solo can do the same thing. Today it was an old song by Chicago that a lot of people know, namely “25 or 6 to 4,” in which Terry Kath just decides he’s going to tear my face off. Which he does. My face is off. Okay, I jest, but again you get the idea.
What it comes down to is depth. A deeply felt lyric, a deeply felt instrumental break, or IRL, as the kids say, (we former hippies would have totally said that back in the day if one of us had thought of it), it can be as simple as someone saying hello – showing you that they are happy to see you. Telling you with all of their heart. Depth once more.
I’m sure you’ll agree that the return of these feelings is a good thing regardless, but there’s something more.
Not only do these intensified feelings find their way into my work, but they intensify said work. I am aware that I can reach that same depth of feeling in my books. Smiles sometimes, tears sometimes, but all genuine and all likely to elicit a similar reaction in the reader. I no longer fear being as good a writer as I was. I realize and look forward to the fact that all of this depth will make me a better writer than I was.
I have in the past written a passage here and there that I knew was good, deeper than much of what is available today. And my ability to do this throughout a book makes be confident that I can write something special. Something that I don’t need to brag about or shout about from the rooftops or whatever. I’m writing things now that people will read and think to themselves, “Gloria needs to read this.” And they’ll tell her to get it. They’ll tell her she won’t regret the purchase. Even though she’s sick to death about my broken brain talk.
As a result of these changes, I intend to make 2023 a year in which I ramp up my career. Obviously, there are books asking to be brought into the light. I will not fear writing them. I also need to be much more regular with these blog posts, with my email newsletter, and there may even be a new podcast coming down the pike.
I was born to be a writer. I’ve not doubted that for a long time. But now that belief is magnified to the point that I’m ready to return to all aspects of it. There are some major works… in the works. There are some great books booking their way toward you. And for me, all of this will be magic. It will all come along with untold numbers of smiles and tears.
5 thoughts on “Smiles and Tears”
I hope you start feeling better soon. I pray you have more reasons to smile and improved health in 2023 xx
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Thank you so much!
I can relate to this post, Scott, having had one hell of time myself this past year. Come to think of it though, I haven’t been doing much smiling or crying. I have been far too busy pretending that everything is or will be okay… Hopefully it will be… and for you too!
Ugh! What a garbage year it was. I’m hoping 2023 is much better in all regards, for you as well as myself!
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I have a feeling 2023 will settle down and be better, Scott…