The Absurd Absence of My Own Smile

I’ll start by saying that this blog post gives a nod to my mother who made me realize the absurd absence of my own smile.

I recently posted a photo of myself holding a huge bag of green peanuts ready to be boiled with this enormous grin on my face. It was a photo from so many years ago, in a blog post cataloging my joy at something so wonderful and simple. (Yes, I am an ardent fan of fresh boiled peanuts in the summer time….Covid 19 had better not screw this year up).

But, my mother commented on that wide, delightful smile. She said, “I love that photo. That is the Gregory I know. Always with this big smile….”

And for reasons of vanity, we never saw that smile again.

Over the years my teeth have suffered, medically and aesthetically. We’ve tended to the medical part. No longer worried about that. The appearance of my teeth always bothered me, though.

So, in recent years, every time I post a photo of myself, you see these big, reflective eyes, or a mad, but enjoyable expression. But, you never saw me with a toothy, honest smile. Because, I was embarrassed by how my teeth looked.

But, when forced to contain a smile for reasons of vanity, you lose a certain exuberance in your own joy. You are held back by some ridiculous notion that your smile is appalling.

Eventually, not being able to express joy can hinder being able to experience joy. They are, pretty much, one and the same.

You don’t want to enjoy something too much, because you fear showing too much of your own malady. You don’t laugh as much….As rich, smokey, and as warm as that guffaw may be, it is covered with a hand, or forced into a pressing of the lips held firmly together.

And again, if you don’t allow yourself to express joy, then you’re robbing yourself of even experiencing it.

Then my mother reminded me of how it is doubtful that anyone even noticed the wear and tear of my teeth. They saw a man who had been through so much, but was so hopeful. He beamed with cheerfulness. That smile told a story whenever it flashed. My imperfect smile revealed the history of not the best experiences, but the desire to move past them….toothy scars and all. That cracked splash across my face has decades of stories written in them.

This smile is a record of the history I have lived. Beautiful with the number of stories it can tell, poignant as it recounts the days that I have seen. That smile says so much about days that have been, while anxiously grinning brighter for days to come.

As I look towards my future I am adamant that I won’t allow that smile to be held back anymore. I want that smile to truly express the joy in my experiences to come. Otherwise, the pursuit of my own happiness is for nothing…especially if I can’t even bring myself to smile about it.

Thanks, mom.

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