Smile – Charlie Chaplin cover

Smile. What a sad, sad song. Charlie Chaplin wrote it as an instrumental theme in 1936 for a movie of his I have never seen but when I do watch it I bet it will make me cry. Nearly twenty years later some other guys added the lyrics. When I used to do shows in person (in the Before Times) I would make jokes about this song. “Hold it all in, it’s healthier,” I would say. “Repress your sadness, don’t burden the rest of us.” As a really very smiley person in normal times it’s so weird to be making all these videos and looking at my sad, sad face every day. It is so difficult to smile right now.

Smiling is such a politically loaded thing. Women are expected to smile. “Give me a smile,” so many dudes of every age and race have told me and the women around me. Just a couple weeks ago when I started recording songs almost daily the lack of my smiles stood out to me from the beginning. “Well, what if I don’t feel like smiling?” I asked myself. My very favorite @andrewbirdmusic has not been smiling in his videos and his lack of smiles do not concern me and do not seem to concern anyone else. And it certainly doesn’t make his music any less beautiful or deeply moving.

I took a yoga class online yesterday. One benefit of the lockdowns is that I can just log on to take class with amazing yoga teachers across the country, something that I have been starved for. And why did it take me so many months into this to realize that it’s now so easy for me to study with the teachers I have been longing to study with for years? Hm. Maybe it was that depression that was slowly setting in this whole time? Anyway, the yoga class lightened me up considerably. It was a backbending class. “Certainly the depression won’t set in,” @lois_steinberg said. Hah! True. Although I don’t feel totally bubbly and smiley like my “normal” self, I do feel lighter than before. There is more a sense of equanimity, of acceptance, of level-headedness.

So while I think that not smiling can be a political act and while I don’t want to just smile because I am anxious or uncomfortable (<–true), I also don’t want to be plain not able to smile. Here’s to going forward, to growing.

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