That lady who smiles all the time

In France, our masking mandates were all lifted as of Monday.

I can almost 100% guarantee that around the dinner table on Monday night, everyone was having the exact same conversation, and that it went like this:

“Someone said hello to me, and I had no idea who it was,” Person 1 says. “Then I realized it was the teacher!”

“Hah! That happened to me at work!” Person 2 replied. “A guy walked into the office, I asked if I could help him…turns out it was the new guy who started last month!”

How many times on Monday did I second guess myself about who people were? This was particularly painful because my boys started at a new school this year, and so I have never seen any of the parents, students or teachers unmasked.

Since September, my imagination has been filling in the details of the bottom parts of their faces!

Not one single time did my imagination fill in the details correctly. Not once. One father had a rather surprising handlebar mustache and a severe set to his mouth, which did not at all match his friendly, crinkly eyes. One woman, with severe, unsmiling blue eyes actually had a delightful smile and a very cute gap between her teeth.

Who are these people? I’ve been saying “hello” to them every day for six months, but I had never actually seen them before!

We had some funny conversations about this, because thankfully, we all were experiencing the same shock/surprise/disappointment at discovering the power of our imaginations.

What I realized is that just for a window of just a few days, I have an opportunity to reinvent myself. If I want to, I can decide what my default expression is going to be, and if I want to, I can decide that this new default expression will be a smile.

This all comes back to joy, in the end. You see, I feel like there is some power in smiling.

I’m not talking in the Smile, though your heart is breaking way. I mean, like in the activation of all those muscles, that something happens in our heads and in our hearts, sure, but something also happens to those whose eyes we meet, too. Somehow, even more than through eye contact, a smile brings a fantastic kind of connection.

This, coming from a functional introvert, is a rather stunning sentence: that connection might be defined as fantastic… this is very very new.

Smiling is such a fantastic way to bring a little ray of joy to someone else. And since I am knee-deep in ways to bring joy into my own life, this kinda seems like a superpower.

I had forgotten what it felt like to make someone smile.

I had forgotten what the shades of a smile look like…from the pursed, polite nod to a big, spontaneous toothy grin. And oh my goodness, I never ever ever want to let go of that superpower to bring sunshine again.

So rarely in our lives do we get such a definitive reset. I mean, here, after six months of “knowing” these people, we all get to choose what others see when they look at us.

No, we can’t really do anything about the lines around our mouths, our jowls that were artfully hidden by the mask, or the nonstop hormonal acne on our chins (raising my hand). But we do get to decide that those things won’t define us, and that we can, if we want to, start wielding a superpower. We all get to choose.

I am purposing to be that lady who smiles all the time…and in so doing, I hope to be that lady who makes others smile, too.


Episode 31: Mental Health Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: Rage; Sublimation; Mental Hygiene. Episode 31: Mental Health is part of our series on the Ideal Life Categories. The series began back in Episode 15: The One About Our Bodies, in case you want to get caught up. Links: The Great Bathrobe Refashion: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/05/18/the-great-2021-bathrobe-refashion/ Rage Refashioning: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/05/27/rage-refashioning/ Sublimation: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/06/09/sublimation/ You can contact Lily by email: lily@lilyfieldschallenge.com. A great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse, France for the use of the song "La Joie" as the intro and outtro to the show. Thanks also to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 31: Mental Health
  2. Episode 30: Contentment
  3. Episode 29: Commitments
  4. Episode 28: Lucidly Ever After
  5. Episode 27: Passionately Curious

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

3 thoughts on “That lady who smiles all the time

  1. I never wore a mask at all, except at the Dr’s. I always smiled at people. At first, everyone seemed almost afraid. Did they think I was gonna yank their masks off???? When Gov. DeSantis removed state wide mask mandates, I went around thanking everyone who was mask-less. To a man, everyone smiled back!!

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