Words to the Wise: Sharing Life, Lessons, and Observations

Words to the Wise is a collection of stories, observations and insight drawn from my own experience both in the past and in the present, together with my perspective on what I may have learned in the process. Occasional poetry and astrological insights will be included when appropriate. I welcome comments, suggestions and thoughts of all kinds and am happy to respond.

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The Face You Give Yourself

          My first husband was in the ROTC in college. After his graduation we went to El Paso to live while he attended officers’ school. My little girl took her first steps there. We lived in a small housing complex with other young families. I became friend with another of the mothers in her twenties. She was from Oklahoma. One of the first things I noticed about her was that living in that hot, dry climate had scored deep frown and squint wrinkles in her youthful skin. Seeing them I determined right then that if I was going to have wrinkles at least they would be pleasant ones, and so I trained myself to notice whenever I started to squint or frown. Then as I caught myself, I would stop.

Some research on the Internet revealed that it takes more muscles for a genuine smile than it does for a frown. Furthermore, the act of smiling exercises the facial muscles and brings more blood to nourish the cells of the face. This I turn helps make us look younger and prettier.  More important, so far as I m concerned is that the act of smiling releases endorphins in the brain. These are feel good hormones that makes us feel happier. So as we do so, we smile more and so forth. This is called a positive feedback loop.

One does not always feel like smiling. Some days it seems like the whole world is conspiring to create problems for you.  Now certainly you do not feel like smiling. However, you can take heart. Even a pretend smile releases he feel good endorphins. I learned this from Thicht Nhat Hahn, the well-known teacher of meditation. If you make even a small smile it will release some of those feel good endorphins and make you feel better and more like really smiling.

The subject of this column was sparked by the visit of an old and dear friend who came over recently for lunch. He told us that a little while ago when he was interviewing for a job his interviewer asked him, "Do your cheeks hurt?" He said they didn’t and asked why. "Because you never seem to stop smiling," came the reply. He does indeed smile a lot, and he is a very happy person. I expect there is a connection there. For myself ever since I can remember I have always enjoyed smiling at people. It does make me feel good and sometimes I get a smile in return.

            Years ago I did find that it was unwise to smile at strangers on the subway because they might get the wrong idea and try to follow me home. It is also true that in some societies, smiles are considered bad form and indicate something less than friendliness. An article in Wikepedia suggests that smiles may have evolved from a grimace of fear. However, perhaps this worked to make people less fearful and happier, who knows. It has been said that in our youth we have the face God gave us, and in our elder years we have the face we have given ourselves. This is a good enough reason to smile as often as possible

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Practical mystic and poet Tasha Halpert writes a column called Heartwings Love Notes for a Joyous Life, as well as a monthly astrology column for the internet. She writes a weekly perspective column for the Grafton News called Good Earthkeeping.  Her poems and essays have appeared in Quest Magazine, For the Love of Life, Heart and Wings, The Unicorn, and other publications. She is staff poet and storyteller for the Unicorn, and a regular part of Granny Moon’s Morning Feast. Her book Heartwings: Love Notes for a Joyous Life is available; She has another in preparation: Up to my Neck in Lemons, as well as a poetry chapbook: Poems and Prayers. With her writings she hopes to be of help and comfort and perhaps even entertaining.  With her husband Stephen she lives in Grafton and is the mother of 5, grandmother of 7, and great grandmother of 2.  

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