Smile When you Can

27 Sep 2022


Smiling is infectious,

you catch it like the flu,

When someone smiled at me today,

I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner

and someone saw my grin.

When he smiled I realized

I'd passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,

then I realized its worth.

A single smile, just like mine

could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,

don't leave it undetected.

Let's start an epidemic quick,

and get the world infected!

Spike Milligan

I loved Lex’ blog on Monday, about being the spark that allows another to catch fire. It made me think of this poem.

When I thought of this poem, I was initially angry, because we cannot smile all the time. And then, when I looked it up and I saw who had written it, my anger drained away. If anyone would know about the cyclical nature of smiles, it would be Spike Milligan, who lived with bipolar disorder himself.

When I thought of the poem, I had, at first, ascribed to it a “should.” I “should” smile. It’s good for the planet: it must be done.

Another read through, however, made me realise there is no “should” in the poem. And the writer of that poem certainly knew there is often a “cannot.”

One of the things we often think, when we have depression, is that we should hide it. After all, the world needs more smiles; it does not need more gloom. When people ask, “How are you?”  Often, we smile and say, “Fine.” No, we are not fine – and anyone with the least empathy can see it. Only those with a more intimate knowledge of us, however, and who feel they have a right to challenge us, will say, “I can see you’re not fine. Would you like to talk?”

I no longer say, “Fine.” I use the phrase, “All the better for seeing you.” If it’s to someone who knows I go up and down, I might say, “A bit down right now, but I’ll get through.”

Right now, I’m okay. I know there’s another Down waiting in the wings, but I’m not going to give him his cue to come on stage just yet.

So, right now I can smile at strangers.

The poem likens the infectious nature of smiles to the flu.

Being in the depressive part of bipolar, is almost like having the real flu. The last thing one feels like is smiling; it’s almost physically impossible. Even if my lips move, it doesn’t reach my eyes.

So, sometimes we can smile, and other times we cannot. We cannot generate smiles from darkness. The trick is not to feel guilty about that. Smiles are usually involuntary. Sometimes they are triggered by sunshine on a flower, or the sight of a puppy chasing its tail. Sometimes they are caught from other people.

Like Spike Milligan, we can just let the smiles come when they do.


A Moodscope member.

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Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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