Sunday, July 18, 2010

Learning to Smile

When I was little, I was told that I had a goofy smile, that it looked a bit weird, and that I showed my teeth in an odd way. I was told to smile better but I didn't know how. So for years I avoided smiling on demand when asked - the only smiles I had were those spontaneous one that you couldn't control, the ones that weren't taken in photos. For years I refused to show my teeth. I had to learn to smile, learn to be comfortable with it. I feel like I've finally reached a point where I could be comfortable smiling.

And because it took me so long to learn how to smile, I also had to learn how to hug. I avoided contact and gave people their space. It was weird and awkward for someone to invade my personal space or for me to invade theirs, wanted or unwanted. Even now, hugs feel strange though I crave the feeling. Even now, touching another person is somewhat awkward. But I'm learning how to hug and I think I'll get it soon.

And because I'm still in the process of becoming comfortable hugging, I have yet to learn how to dance and be comfortable within myself. And so dancing is incredibly awkward for me. It makes my heart race, it makes me sweat, it makes me nervous - for who would be the one to notice and laugh and send me back to square one? It may be a while yet before I learn how to dance.

And because I have yet to learn how to dance - to feel comfortable with my own limbs - it may be too early for me to be involved in a relationship. To first feel comfortable enough to smile, then comfortable enough to allow contact, then comfortable enough with one's limbs, and finally comfortable enough to be vulnerable to another - this is a long road that I started way too late. What have I been doing all those teen years?
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Last Friday I went to a wedding, one of my labmate's from anatomy lab. Two other labmates went with me, and they each brought their significant others. I was alone because the final labmate bailed on me.

He looked so happy getting married. He's usually someone who's calm and level, who doesn't let his emotions shine through. He had a great poker face. But there were no poker faces that night, and his smile was the brightest in the room. He was marrying his best friend whom he had known since they were both 4-years-old. And during the reception, as he gave a toast, he almost let himself cry - his shell broken for a brief moment. And it was endearing.

And throughout the entire day, we all had to smile, and hug, and dance. While I was okay with the first two, dancing was rather rough the couple of times I was dragged on the dance floor. It was a lovely wedding and I am truly happy for the both of them.

The last few weddings have left me with mixed emotions. Happiness for the bride and groom, sadness for myself. Optimistic that there are such things as happy endings, pessimistic that I'd be so blessed to enjoy one.

I have a ways to go. To learn how to dance, to love, and to be vulnerable. To find my best friend with whom I'd gladly spend eternity. The question is a trial of time. This is one future that I can't even predict. How many long years will it be before I reach the edge of where so many already are?

Though I think that at the end of the road, I'll come full circle and learn to be a little kid again - to smile, to hug, to dance, and to love as they do. Because they are uninhibited. Perhaps society makes us unlearn that which is innate, and it's only through struggle that we re-learn that which we've forgotten . . .

12 comments:

Mike said...

I always used to try to avoid smiling when people told me I smile too much. I still get that at work. Sometimes it is me putting on a front and other times I am just generally happy

dpking19 said...

it sucks to have little things taken away from you because you have been hurt so much by the little jabs people give you in life like me singing...and then someone coming in and mooing like a cow like that is my singing so i never feel comfy doing yet i love it Love<~Peter~>

naturgesetz said...

It may not take as long as you think for you to be able to be vulnerable to another.

Great pics.

Biki said...

Sigh, all to often people speak without really thinking it through, and with kids once heard it's very hard to erase it from your mind. The only advice i have for you is this, you should look into taking some sort of movement classes, wither it be dance or yoga, but something where others can see you, and you learn to move your limbs in certain ways. Massage is also a great way to break down the large personal space thingy....not something i personally can handle, but others can and do.

I think with your loving heart and willing spirit you will find someone that will love you, and that you can love. Opening up your heart and self to someone else can be very scary, but if you are willing to be hurt, and can be brave i hope great belief that you will find happiness.

You could try being more open with your friends, letting them in to see the real Aek, and not the mask you wear for them to see.

Hugs!

drew said...

If you have some time, read Brida by Paulo Coelho. I think this will help your learning process.

Phunk Factor said...

I think smiling is possibly the most important....even if u smile but aren't that confident to start talking the other person will do so! Nobody wants to talk to a grumpy person!!

N u'll get there...bt to be find someone and be ready than to find someone but not ready!

Aaron said...

aaahh.. i think one of the best thing you'll ever learn is to be vulnerable.

to smile, to hug, to love and to put yourself in situations that you find uncomfortable. because only then you'll find what you don't have.

Mind Of Mine said...

The notes about your smile, really hit home with me. I have a really bad smile and It has been the bane of my existence since I got my adult teeth. The got worse as my wisdom teeth set in.

Although I try to act confident, and in many ways I actually am. But meeting new people and sustaining a romantic relationship is always hard because I don't want people to see my teeth.

letopho said...

I just imagined my own gay wedding. It's going to be Safari themed.

Jeremy said...

I'm the same way. I hate it when people touch me, even my parents...

James said...

I won't go to weddings any more. I always end up in a corner crying later in the day/night because of the very concerns you have.

Aek said...

Biki: Yeah . . . movement class . . . if I ever have that kind of time (which becomes less and less as med school wears on). I hope you're right about that second point, because it hasn't happened so far.

Aaron: Being vulnerable is scary!

letopho: Interesting. When that happens, I'd like to see some pics. :-P

Jeremy: Hehe, yeah . . .