Of Crooked Smiles and Happiness

I was born with a very smushed face. Part cross bite, part “wombs are tight places”,  I carried a crooked smile all the way into adolescence. Orthodontia helped a great deal; so did perfecting the ideal smile. I remember after I got my braces off, I’d flash a smile at myself every time I walked by a mirror. It was very Dorian Grey and vain, but I learned quickly how to look perfect. I was always told that I had a great smile and knew how to light up a room. I would sometimes model for my photographer friends and that perfect smile would always be on display.

I’ve struggled with happiness most my life. I was a depressed and angsty teenager and carried a lot of that discontentment into marriage and early adulthood. I eventually learned how to fight for joy, but in the later years of our marriage also lived in quite a bit of pain. All the while the perfect family pictures and model-like portraits were displayed for all the world to see. I’ve often been told that we were the most photogenic family. It was so hard for people to believe the pain we were in when we all looked so darn perfect.

A funny thing has happened in this year of endings followed by new beginnings. My crooked smile has returned. I first noticed it in the Fall. Since then it keeps cropping up in selfies and pictures where I least expect it. It is not planned or posed — and it certainly is not perfect. And yet, the way my right lower lips droops to one side is evidence of a happiness I haven’t known in decades.

 Movie day with my sister with a full droopy-lip smile on display!

My life isn’t perfect, but of course, it never was. Now the imperfection in my photos merely reflects that perfectly imperfect life I’m living. There is still residual hurt which I’m sure will take years to heal, but predominantly God has replaced my Eeyore attitude and replaced it with something more resembling Tigger. I have even found that my personality on Myers-Brigg changed. Going through a catastrophic life event has shaken me to my core. But more than that, it revealed to me that a lot of my exterior was not meant for me. It was a facade that I had created to look perfect, but it was not fundamentally “me”.

So now I’m finding out who “me” is. It seems so cliche and very chick-flicky, but divorce has stripped me of everything I thought I was and shown me a stronger, happier, and (hopefully) kinder version of myself. A self that has a crooked and undeniably happy smile and a more robust laugh; a self that isn’t ashamed of crying easily and being hopelessly sentimental; a self that desperately loves Jesus and tries to love others well; and a self that has learned how to stand on her own while trusting God on her knees. 

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