If you can’t find the strength to love again, if you can’t have it in your heart to forgive the one who has broken you, if you’re struggling just to lift your head from the pillow, I hope you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and try to raise the corners of your mouth.
If the world is crumbling at your feet, if it feels like a thousand pounds have fallen on your chest, if every breath aches, I hope you still let the sun fall softly on your face.
And I hope, if nothing else, you smile.
I know you are facing days where pretending to be happy is impossible, where you cannot imagine anything bright or beautiful, when you’re so covered in cobwebs and shadows you have forgotten the person you used to be. I know it’s silly to wish for better mornings, filled with promise and possibility. I know even attempting to change the expression on your face seems like a monumental task.
But if you lift those corners of your lips, if you let a tiny smirk cross those cheeks, if you allow yourself to smile, you will begin to bring light back in.
Because smiling is contagious. And if you smile at a stranger, that stranger will more than likely smile at you. If you shift your perspective, doors will open for you to step through. If you allow yourself to feel positive energy, that emotion will bubble up from your stomach through your limbs and into your heart, and remind you that little muscle is still beating, no matter how broken you feel.
If nothing else on your darkest days, your loneliest nights, the moments you just want to quit—find a little sliver of something to make you smile. And grab it. Hold onto it. Don’t let it go.
Because what you’re feeling right now is not what you will feel forever. The pain your chest will slowly dissolve over time. The cramp in your muscles, the resistance in each breath, the tiredness in your walk—those things will fade and be replaced by strength as you continue.
But you must first take a step; you must first let yourself smile again.
Smile. Even when you don’t believe the grin on your face. Even when you are sick of love, even when you can barely stand, even when your thoughts have been negative and self-defeating for so long.
Smile. Until it doesn’t feel like a chore. Until the expression comes with ease. Until you forget that you were once forcing yourself, and suddenly realize you are happy, for the first time in a while.
Smile. Not because your life is perfect and everything is together and all your pain is healed, but because you are alive, and that is enough.
Smile. Because better days will come. Because you won’t always feel as weak as you do now. Because you are strong, have been strong, and will become stronger each and every day.
Smile. Because as tired as you are right now, you will make it through.
Smile. Because that is the best choice, the only choice you have when you hit rock bottom. And because with that turn of your lips, you will change your fate. You will start again. You will feel lightness instead of heaviness. And you will survive.
Marisa Donnelly is a poet and author of the book, Somewhere on a Highway, available here.