Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Pain Behind the Smile

The "living artist" (as she says she prefers to be called) Patti Smith was interviewed recently in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I just loved what she had to say about living through pain and loss in her life: "(W)e can access a lot of things that cause pain. This might seem really funny, but when I feel like that, I make myself smile...I just sit and physically make myself smile. Because sometimes it makes you laugh, and then you just go, "All right."

I remember growing up seeing these aspirin ads on TV. A woman would be vigorously playing the piano (a Chopin Mazurka, if I remember correctly), look up from the keyboard, and say into the camera: "I have arthritis, but it doesn't have me." To paraphrase that ad and Patti Smith, I think every one of us has pain, but pain doesn't have us. Our pain can be useful; we can recognize it's comings and goings, acknowledge it when it's there, and smile when it's time for it to be set aside--until the next time it visits again.

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