When I was young, I prayed for three things: braces, glasses and a cast.
The braces were a foregone conclusion, as my two front teeth had a wide gap between them and a not-so-sexy overbite. But more importantly, my brothers had both been subjected to orthodontia, ergo, I must as well. If they got to do it, I got to do it. That was the rule in our house -- despite the fact that I was nine years younger. (My parents rocked.)
I ached for braces. For a headgear. For a retainer. Ached.
The cast, well, I think that was the desire to prove people actually liked me. I was an awkward child, the tallest in school for many years. I was 5 feet 8 inches at age 12, as an adult I topped out at 5 feet 11 inches, which I felt was a personal affront, truly, considering. All that torture, all those names, and I didn't even get to hit 6 feet? A rip-off. But the cast, the white plaster kind that people got to write on, that, that was the pinnacle of glory. I would have love notes, personal missives, encouragements, good wishes. Everyone was kind to an invalid. If I were hurt, they couldn't make fun of me, right?
I was so open and up-front about my desires that when I came home and told my mother I couldn't read the blackboard, she refused to believe me. My teacher finally called to confirm my self-diagnosis, off to the ophthalmologist I went, and out I came with a prescription to correct my nearsightedness. Heaven.
When I was 11, the second wish came true. Into the braces I went. With the headgear. And, oh, mighty bliss, rubber bands as well.
Sadly, by the time I needed a cast, it was post-surgery for a torn ligament, and they'd gone to fiberglass and straps. You can imagine the betrayal I felt.
Of course, the childish torment never really let up. Not until my main tormentor realized that he had hormones and instead began a relentless pursuit. He was my first kiss, of course.
I look back on those years with a fondness and sincere wish for the simpleness of childhood. All I really wanted was to fit in. To be like everyone else.
But I am an adult now, and I've had to put away childish things. I don't bother with the fitting in anymore, that's pointless. I'm a writer -- by nature we're all self-inflicted outcasts. We're observers of the human condition, programmed to look at things differently than normal folk. If we fit in, we wouldn't have the gifts that we do.
So my prayers as an adult are different. They aren't about me. They are for others. The happiness of those around me. Real happiness, the kind that brings fulfillment and contentment. That my friends find love and success in their lives. That no one will suffer. That we will find peace and understanding with our enemies.
Yes, I wish for things for myself. That the joy of my marriage continues always. That my books find a home, are successful at entertaining my readers. That my parents are always there to answer the phone when I call. But I've also realized that making others happy makes me happy.
We're so busy now, so full of things to do, worlds to conquer. We have road rage. We have Facebook. We are entitled. But if we stop making it about us, and start making it about others, the world shifts.
My wish for the people around me, strangers and friends alike, is a level of self-awareness that lets them love themselves. I firmly believe that happiness can only be found from within. Once you've found that happiness, then you can share it with those around you. Start with those you love and work your way up to strangers.
As a therapy, smiling is highly underrated.
There's a quote from Goethe that sticks in my head. He says, "I am the decisive element."
I will spend 2011 focusing on remembering that I am the decisive element. I hope that everyone can find their own kindness, their own satisfaction, all through the healing power of a simple smile.
J.T. Ellison is the author of best-selling crime novels set in Nashville that star female detective Taylor Jackson. You can read her blog on Red Room.
My Wish for 2011 -- An AOL News Year-End Special
We asked a dozen top writers to share their wishes for the New Year. Click on any headline to read what they hope will happen in 2011.
- Better TV News – By Barry W. Lynn
- A Better World for My Daughter – By G. Willow Wilson
- More Companies That Don't Suck – By Dave Logan
- More Progress for Women – By Talia Carner
- A Just Transition to Clean Energy – By Jeff Biggers
- Closing the Happiness Gap – By Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Honor for the Kalahari Bushmen – By James G. Workman
- The Courage to Ask Questions – By Sonya Huber
- More Adoptions – By Brett Battles
- A Smile, Freely Given – By J.T. Ellison
- We Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road – By Rebecca York
- A Better Next Decade – Kate Clinton