I had to dash to the post office on Friday afternoon to get a letter in the postbox. That was some old-fashioned stuff, right there.

I made it in plenty of time.

(Build the tension, Kenneth, you’ve got to build the tension)

On the walk back, it was 5.15 on Friday and that 'Friday Feeling' came over me. I was just about done for the week and Friday evening beckoned like a nice person beckoning.

(Better work on those similes too, Kenneth).

So, anyway, I was walking back through the car park and thinking about finishing up for the day. I would get some chicken fillets from Anthony the Butcher and some burger buns and lettuce and tomatoes and potatoes-for-wedges and some beers for my one-beer-of-the-week. Then I would go home and put some music on and make dinner while everybody else was out walking or doing whatever. Then, around seven thirty or so, we would sit and eat, constructing our own personalized chicken fillet burgers from the array of stuff on the table.

And, as I thought about this, as I looked forward very much to it, something unusual happened, right there in the car park.

I smiled.

Hang on. Don’t let me give you the impression that I never smile. I do. I reckon I smile quite a lot, but they are different kinds of smiles. You know what I mean. We smile in response to other smiles; we smile at something on telly or on our phone. We smile to deflect and encourage and to hide behind.

But this type of smile was rare. A spontaneous, uncalled-for smile from nowhere. It surprised me; I don’t mind telling you.

And that smile got me thinking.

What a strange beast I am, that I can smile broadly in the middle of the car park while all of the shit in the world continues, just like it always does. What right is there for me to be smiling while such god-awful things are happening all over the place and right here on the home front too.

I got to wondering: how do we manage it? This smiling thing. Is it resilience? Are we so weathered and tough that literally nothing can keep us down forever? Or is it that we are so inherently selfish and uncaring that, no matter what is happening around us, something good in our own little world will always make us happy?

And there has been so much trouble and quite a bit of pain. I don’t need to run through the worldwide stuff with you, you all know that well enough yourselves. And the more private stuff, well, it’s not for blogs is it? Not this morning, at least.

So why smile?

I thought about it and I didn’t come to the conclusion that it is a negative thing, this penchant for a smile. I actually think it’s pretty good.

I don’t think it’s because we’re overly selfish or impervious or uncaring, though we all have a measure of those things in us. I think it’s more that we all subconsciously know that we are all in this together and that pain and sorry and anxiety and… just… trouble is all around the corner for all of us. We may not be in trouble today but we will be one day, as sure as eggs is eggs. 

That guy in Gladiator kind of put his finger on it when he spoke to his deceased friend, “I will see you again but not yet. Not yet.” As adults we mourn the loss of those who have died. And if that was a fate solely for them then it might be even harder to bear. But it isn’t. As adults, we know that we are all going to go the same way, we are all bound to die. In the same way as we know that whatever level of trouble and pain someone is having, we all know we will have our own share of that cake on some future day.

So we smile. Not because we do not care but because we do.

We’re most likely only here once and we’re most likely not going anywhere much after we’re here. So we should just embrace the good moments when we get them, any time that we are able. There are hurdles and ditches aplenty ahead. Some we’ll get over; some we’ll crawl through somehow but some we will not.

But for now, it’s Friday afternoon. That letter is safe in the postbox and the prospect of a homemade chicken fillet burger and my one beer of the week beckons warmly.

“Not yet. Not yet.”

Just once, a long time ago, I asked my Twitter people what I should write about here because I didn’t have any ready ideas for that week. I got only one reply, from my good friend John, who said that I should write about the importance of a smile. In that particular week, I couldn’t think of anything to say on that subject so I wrote something else, God knows what.

So maybe this one’s for you, John - and, of course, for anyone else who wants it.

The world may be in a state of chassis, as the man said, but we can still allow ourselves our little smiles whenever they come to us unbidden.

We deserve them.


Marc Paterson said...

I was talking to Dom Conlon a while back and the term, 'small wins' came up. That's what life is worth living for, those small wins. We're experiencing our share of heartache at the moment, I'll not go any deeper, but simultaniously there's much to celebrate. It's rarely one terrible thing followed by something wonderful, it's almost always all those things happening at once.

Here's to small wins.

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Marc. Dom is a gent. I'm sorry to hear you are experiencing a hard time. My thoughts are with you. Keep that chin up and keep seeking out some of the things that can at least raise a half-smile. All my best to you and yours. x

Jim Murdoch said...

If you look though my old school photos all the early ones show me smiling and a bit gawky and then there’s the one from when I was about ten which is deadpan and deliberately so. Photos of me smiling after that are almost non-existent. I do have one of me and my daughter when she graduated university—it’s proudly displayed in the hall—where I have a big, wide (and completely fake although you can’t tell) smile but that’s about it. When I reached ten I had decided I was a serious person and serious people didn’t smile so I pretty much stopped, consciously at first but it became easier and easier. I’m still capable of both smiling and laughing but it takes a lot—and I mean A LOT--to get me to that stage. I can watch comedian after comedian, both recognise and appreciate the humour (and thoroughly enjoy the performance), and never smile once. They say you use more muscles to frown than smile. It’s not true. A small smile generally uses ten muscles; a small frown uses six. On average, a smile uses twelve and a frown eleven. However, since humans (normal humans and not awkward cusses like me) tend to smile a lot, these muscles are stronger. Of course not smiling often makes me difficult to read and I’m afraid I’ve quite relished that over the years.