Several years ago while I walked a mall, an old man implored me to, “Smile.”
My ever-behaving inner child responded at his command, making the corners of my mouth turn up. At that moment I realized my sad pathetic life was in plain sight for all to see.
Though I took great steps to conceal the pain, mistakes and horrendous abuses that made up my existence, all anyone needed to do was peer at my face, gaze into my eyes. This gentleman couldn’t comprehend the actual web of horrors that entangled me.
Unwanted, neglected, and abandoned by my mother and father. At 16, as my parents divorced and married people whom I had never before met, my newly introduced stepfather’s actions cast me to the winds. Forced to find a place to live, a friend’s family took me in, but the father happened to be a pedophile. Oh, not so lucky me.
Yet, a roof covered my head, and I didn’t need to resort to life on the streets. The lack of love, support, and care combined to create one insecure, lonely girl whose self-esteem lingered on the bottom of a toilet bowl.
Before residing with the child molester at age 16, at 13, a boy, also 13 asked me to kiss him. Well wow, and thus began our 17-year relationship.
We married at 19, and were blessed first with a handsome son then 4 ½ years later a gorgeous daughter. From all appearances, this young family appeared ideal, but we were not.
My husband, the consummate workaholic, was unreachable. Every few months, I begged, cried, and attempted to reason with him, explained his kids and me, his wife, needed him. Alas, his work took priority.
Dissatisfied, disgruntled and stricken with abandonment once more, I fell into a severe depression. A new problem surfaced, insomnia and middle of the night pacing throughout the house.
The idea the situation would remain out of my control, and no matter how hard I tried to make him understand, nothing would change, sent me hurling into an abyss of isolation.
Then, a stranger appeared at precisely the wrong moment. In my confusion and bewilderment, I believed him to be my knight in eye-squinting armor.
The one person who adored and needed me like no other. Call me blind and crazy, as this was no brilliant crusader coming to my rescue. The man saw and conquered with such swiftness, all who thought they understood me felt confident the sorcerer had hypnotized me.
In reality, I was desperate, lost, and ripe for the picking. My need to be loved, needed, desired, and validated, became his direct entrance to my heart. Several devastating choices later, I found myself drowning in a 20-year long nightmare of domestic violence.
The fact I’m alive is itself amazing. That my person retained goodness, positivity, and humor, is nothing short of a miracle.
Smile? Though I fashioned myself into an expert concealer of hideous truths, the cloak of sadness and defeat was visible to anyone who took note.
I suspect the man who dared ask me to grin possessed a kind soul. In one brief moment, he recognized a person in need.
After escaping my personal hell, life turned for the better. A sense of self, peace, and happiness grew as surely as nurtured seeds become seedlings.
Now, I wear a happy face, and I don’t believe anyone would view me as someone who needs to be prompted to “Smile.”