I cancelled my dinner plans. The only kind of dinner I wanted was one where I answered the greeting of an imaginary hostess with, "The name's Pity. Party of one."
The day started out a downer and never found its way uphill. Some unwelcomed news from the professional front. Frustration in the family arena. Worries about an issue beyond my control. (And this is the only kind of issue really worthy of worry, because if we could control the issue, then we'd simply find a way to resolve it, wouldn't we?)
Looking for a quick fix, I noted on my Facebook page that "My smile is upside down today," and I solicited attempts to make me laugh.
A number of friends emailed me or posted responses. Several made me smile. One made me laugh out loud. (Note to any of you whose own smile is currently upside down: Have you tried standing on your head?)
And one person made a statement which left me pondering. "Hope your smile is turning," she wrote. "I know how it is. Sometimes I find if you fake it enough, you will forget it's fake."
Her words have stuck with me for days.
I am not, by nature, a pessimist. As I've posted here before, I generally see myself as a realist, with a few spoonfuls of optimism sprinkled on top. Even so, aren't we all prone to occasional periods of self-pity and blue funk?
Yet if we dwell on the negative too long, it's likely we will become immersed in it.
I'm not saying we should ignore the truly worry-worthy issues in our lives, or overlook prolonged periods of sadness or stress. Death, divorce and other life-altering experiences require more than a mere attitude adjustment. And I've known many clinically depressed people in my life. In cases like these, putting one's head in the sand may provide a temporarily warm and comforting retreat. But the end result is unhealthy.
Much of the stuff that gets us down, however, are the tiny nuances of life. The Bad Shit that consequently makes it a Bad Day or even a Bad Week. Personal setbacks are frustrating. We have a tendency to let even the little things, like stalled traffic or a co-worker's criticism, turn our smiles upside down. And not just for the duration of the actual experience, but for a long, lingering period afterward.
Forcing a smile when we're down might sound senseless or even insincere. But perhaps happiness is like any other state of achievement: like learning to drive a car, mastering a new language, or playing the piano.
If we practice long enough at being happy, just maybe we'll get better at it.