Photo by BROTE studio from Pexels

It’s 6:30pm, and I just walked through my front door. I took the leash off my dog, and gave him a treat for being a good boy. Well, mostly good with a dash of mischievousness. The wind kicked up a lot of smells. How could a dog resist so many sniffs? Impossible! So, with little regard to his own safety and my gimpy legs, my pup had to chase every whiff, gust, and aroma. 

Ah, but the smile on his face did get my endorphins buzzing. Why is he so damn cute? For sheer adorableness, if not good behaviour, he gets a yummy treat. What about me? Do I get a treat? Nah, the satisfaction of being a decent dog mom is enough.

Apparently?

Aw, he’s sitting with his toy in his mouth and panting happily. Perfect, this should give me enough time to jot down a few thoughts before my phone rings. I have to take a call coming in thirty minutes. Can I get out all of my thoughts before time runs out? Challenge accepted!

Despite my fear and self-criticism from a few days ago, I finally have a few words banging around my head. They’re silly, loud, and if I don’t get them on this page? Well, that phone call will be one-sided. I can’t focus on anything else until I answer a simple question.

Why so serious? And yes, I firmly believe that Heath Ledger was the best Joker in the Batman franchise. He took creepy to a whole new level. If you haven’t seen it, well, I don’t know what to say. He was brilliant, and he asked a valid question. You know, for a deranged villain in a superhero movie.

In another context! Yes, why so serious?

I’ve been in a very serious headspace for several weeks, and I haven’t been able to shake it. My mental health has been a challenge to manage with everything going on globally and personally. The weight of the last year has, for me, become crushing, and I’m losing some of my resilience.

There have been so many things going on, and it’s been hard to see the bright side of life. I’ve talked about some of it here, and some will remain private. It’s just been a lot, and my hopefulness is waining just a bit. It’s still there! I have moments of laughter and lightheartedness. If I squint, I can almost see the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. I firmly believe that there’s always a dash of hope to hold onto.

It’s just, there are these periods where my mind focuses on the darkness instead of the light. It refuses to seek out the humour when standing before the gallows. That’s my favourite time to crack a joke, chuckle and, yeah, shock people by facing a critical situation with a smile. But lately? Yeah, not so much.

When was the last time I smiled, and it didn’t feel like an effort? Huh, good question, and I don’t know. Despite my natural tendency to err on the side of pessimistic realism; I have an easy smile that has a mind of its own. It’s five parts defence mechanism and six parts- Well, it feels good to grin. But that smile is coming a little slower, and it doesn’t feel as natural as it usually does.

And it seems to be going around, which is oddly comforting. Patience is in shorter supply, and eye contact is more readily avoided. It’s hard to say if people are smiling less, but their body language is implicit. Where I live, I haven’t noticed an uptick in overt rudeness but, the weary sigh has become a public staple.

We’re all feeling the strain, and if nothing else, I’m taking comfort in the shared experience. None of us are in this alone, even though we might be thousands of miles apart. There’s always someone out there who understands what you’re going through. It doesn’t always feel like it but, we’re out here cheering you on because if you succeed then, we stand a chance.

Cheers to reckless optimism and unbridled hopefulness.

Still, some days it’s hard to smile, laugh, or look for the light at the end of the tunnel. The seriousness of life takes over, and simple joys fade to black. I don’t know if this is a universal experience or if it’s just me. Sure, life isn’t all rainbows and dancing through daisies. But do you get lost in the negatives, overwhelmed by the stress, and completely forget the last time your smile came easy? 

Right now, as I wait for my phone to ring and hurriedly type my thoughts, I realized I did smile without a prompt. It wasn’t for show or deflection. It came naturally. Fleeting? Sure, it lasted a minute or two, but it still felt good to smile.

It was brought on by the walk, my dog’s goofy grin, and a moment of clarity.

You see, most of the day has been grey and dreary. Heavy clouds threatened to unleash their doomsday payload, and I spent a lot of time glance out my window in anticipation. Will it or won’t it? Why won’t it just dump and run? Go away clouds! Shew, begone, vanish or just rain already.

After dinner, I decided to go out for a walk despite the mischievous uncertainty of those damn clouds. My dog was glaring at me, my legs were restless, and these four walls were closing in fast. But going out into the precarious world and face the risks of an ambiguous climate?

It’s good for me, getting outside for some fresh air, and I know it will help me focus. Also, it will improve my mood. It’s great for my physical health and my mental health. I know this, but I still look for any excuse not to do it. The weather is horrible. My legs are stiff and sore. Oh, look at the time, it’s too late or too early. I can’t possibly go out for a walk right now. I’ll do it later or tomorrow.

Perhaps, not at all? Oo, cheeky.

Then I went to my window, hoping the dark clouds would give me the excuse I wanted and will wonders never cease. There was a patch of blue peeking out from behind the grey. The wind blew, the clouds picked up speed, and there’s the sun in all its fiery glory. The gloom has been replaced by a bright light, and my excuses vanished. 

Outside we go! Just me and my furry little buddy. Yay?

Despite my internal grumbling, and my growing animosity towards the damn mask (which is necessary, I know), I went out for a walk. As soon as it was safe, following local health guidelines, I pulled the mask down and took a deep breath. The wind blew harder, and I closed my eyes for a second.

Did I sigh? Mm, or my dog huffed at me to hurry up. There was a leaf on the ground, and he hadn’t sniffed it yet. What’s wrong with you? Focus on what’s really important. Twigs, grass, and tall trees. These are a few of his favourite things. Sniffing, peeing, running through puddles. These are a few of… 

I love the musical score for the Sound of Music. If only humming would translate onto this page. Alas, you’ll have to add your own melodic accompaniment, but know that I’m singing along.

My dog found an intriguing odour and dug his heels in. I didn’t think we were going anywhere until he’s conducted a thorough investigation. So, I stuck my cold hands into the pocket of my hoodie and looked up at the sky. It’s hard to believe, less than an hour ago, it looked like a big storm was rolling in. The clouds were damn near black, but now they’re gone.

I squinted as the glare from the setting sun peaked through two trees. It’s incredible how fast things can change. One minute it looks like the end of the world, and the next? Well, there’s this moment of absolute perfection, and it’s the simplicity of it that makes it stick out.

Life was complicated and messy before we added a global pandemic. Now? There’s this added layer of seriousness, and it’s becoming harder to find simple moments of pleasure. But— and this might be a controversial statement—- isn’t the purpose of life, the reason for living, finding moments of happiness, laughter, and, if you’re lucky, love?

Pardon the cliche, we’re here on this planet for such a short time, and life goes by so fast. To me, it feels like a waste of every precious minute to get lost in the arduous moments. They will come, it’s unavoidable, and we need to be present, feel them, and walk on through. There’s another side, a light in a tunnel, but I often forget to look for it.

I’ve wasted a lot of time, especially over the last year, getting lost in the darkness. I’m taking life way too seriously, and it’s taking a toll on me physically as well as mentally. The headaches, exhaustion, and mental fog are a few signs that I need to let somethings go. I need to laugh more and find reasons to smile easily. I don’t know if it’s advisable but, if I force myself to smile more often, will the muscles regain their strength? Maybe they’ll remember how to function on their own.

A smile rehabilitation? Mm, there’s a thought.

I was on this walk, my dog was sniffing God knows what, and I looked up at the sky. There were heavy grey clouds in the distance and fluffy white ones floating over my head. I just watched them pass and focused on the blue sky. A few silly thoughts came and went. Thoughts like: I wonder if those clouds floated over Rome. I’d love to go to Italy someday. Or, wouldn’t it be cool to ride one of em? It’s not possible, obviously, but what if it was?

Some of the thoughts made me chuckle, and others passed unnoticed. I’m not very good a meditating, it makes me incredibly anxious but, at that moment, I think I kinda did it. Oops, it was an accident, but I felt a small lazy smile slowly develop. For a moment, an incredibly brief moment, the seriousness of life was replaced by cloud watching and silly thoughts.

I’m told that life is about balance, and I’ve found another area that’s a little off-kilter. There’s no way to avoid the seriousness of life but, it doesn’t have to take over. I can take a break, go for a walk, and let my imagination run wild. It doesn’t nullify or belittle the weighted moments. It simply takes the edge off and eases the burden just a bit.

I feel better now, and I’m ready for my phone call. A call I wasn’t quite prepared to face an hour ago. It’s hard to have a conversation when your brain is making fizzling noises. Now, it feels more open, and the smoke has cleared. I can lean into the call, enjoy the company, and be more present than I could’ve before.

Piece of advice? If you’re anything like me and your struggling with too much weight on tired shoulders? Find a moment that triggers your easy smile. For me, it’s staring at clouds but whatever does it for you, go for it. It’s a small thing that will make a big difference.

Oh, here we go, my phone is ringing. 

Please, take care of yourself because, damn it, you deserve it.

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