smile more

Today was a busy day for us. Although it didn't technically have to start until eleven o'clock, we found ways to fill our morning. At eleven, we loaded up the car and headed for Thomas Worthington High School. No, we don't have any higher schoolers in our household, but this school is the site that our church has used for the last several years to host the Worthington edition of our Christmas experience.

It's hard to believe it, but my wife and I have been doing this for eight holiday seasons now. When we started, the group was smaller, both of us were singing, and the entire experience happened across a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of a single weekend. Now, these years later, there was once in Hilliard, a week later once in Marysville, and then another week twice in Worthington, and three times in Dublin (tomorrow)!

This is the fourth year that I've been part of the orchestra, playing my tubas. For the previous venues, I had brought only the smaller horn because I knew space was at a premium, but for tonight I brought the big boy out because it really does make a nice sound. But this post isn't about the tuba so much as it is about what the tuba allowed me to see.

During parts of the program where the brass aren't playing, I place my enormous piece of instrument on the floor, and it rises almost to my neck. It is exceptionally shiny, and there is a great number of lights at all different angles--it really is a sight to see, but that's not the point either. Being the typical lacquered brass, the bell of my tuba is actually very reflective and this is where we get to the point of the last few sentences.

About half way through the first program today, I was listening to what was going on around me, counting the measures before I was supposed to come in (tubas get a lot of rests in this music... I only play two bars in one song) and I glanced down at the bell and noticed my reflection. Although I wish I could say that I looked at myself and saw a handsome young man, neither of those attributes would be true. Rather, what I saw was merely my reflection, slightly obscured because of the roll of the bell. And it struck me that in my "natural" state, I looked neither happy nor angry. In fact, I couldn't discern any particular emotional conveyance from my image.

Perhaps like a parrot looking in a mirror, I started visually squawking at myself by curling my lips, raising my eyebrows, and rumpling my face in various ways to see if I could make my demeanor inviting or friendly. I was able to create something that I thought resembled enough of a smile to appear friendly without crossing over to the Moe Sizlack forced smile. I tried holding that smile for a moment, but it was hard. I could feel it pulling at the edges of my lips, squishing my eyes, tightening my cheeks, and even pinching my jaw a little.

Are smiles supposed to feel like that?

Or are smiles really really just like everything else that requires working out? According to various sources on the internet, it takes somewhere between 13 and 43 muscles to smile... that's a lot! Oddly, I can make a great frown and that feels completely normal; maybe I've been giving off the wrong vibe unconsciously for all these years.

As that program concluded and the second one followed, I spent a lot more time looking at my reflection, trying to find a smile that didn't feel like my face was in a vice. I haven't located it yet, but I've got three more chances tomorrow, and of course there's these things in my house called mirrors. I guess I'll have to work on wiping out the blank expression that I've apparently cultivated.

If this works out, I'm gonna have some buff facial muscles.

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