Choosing happy. I spent a good couple of years waking each morning telling myself before I got out of bed “choose happy.” It was my daily mantra, over and over again. For every challenge I faced, for every encounter that I had wished never happened, I closed my eyes and chanted, “choose happy, choose happy, choose happy” over and over again. Fast forward a few years…I have become so accustomed to “choosing happy” that I no longer have to tell myself this. It just comes natural. I no longer battle between how I think I, or anyone else, thinks I should feel or react, I just simply choose happy. That is not to say I don’t have bad days, sad days, frustrations, or down right anger over situations out of my control. However, when it all boils down, remaining happy and counting my blessings is a much more appealing place to be emotionally.
Trying to explain this to others who accuse me of wearing “rose colored glasses in my unicorn and glitter world” and not seeing reality is a much harder thing. And, I suppose it is hard to explain because, well, I have no explanation. I don’t know why or how I have come to accept this “happiness” as reality. I have no explanation as to why getting stuck in traffic, finding myself the topic of gossip, being disconnected from those I love, searching for a quick and easy way to blend two families into one, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and being “strong” when what I would rather do is hide under the warm covers of my bed and wait until all the problems of the world, or at least my world, have been solved, among other things, doesn’t drive me to the brink of insanity or to the nearest bar for happy hour, as a minimum. Other than of course, I have a network of friends who love me for who I am, I have a mom and dad that support me without question (even though I question them), I have four children who depend on me to be their guiding light, I have two new children who are watching closely with a wait and see eye, and of course I have a God who loves me as I am and walks beside me when I need a friend and who carries me when I can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other. It is that last explanation that leaves me baffled because, well, it seems so easy, almost a cop-out really…I can’t deal with it…surrender, give it to God. Wow! Why don’t more people do this? How easy my life has become since I have discovered this. It is very easy for me to say to others…release it, give it up to God, he will take care of it. But I think reality is that if you have never been in a place in your life where everything, I mean everything, has been taken from you and you have nowhere else to go but up to God, you just won’t understand. (I may be wrong; I wish I were wrong, I hope I am wrong)
So, back to my unicorn and glitter world…how does all that fit into reality? Yes, I understand that the world around us is not perfect. Choosing happy does not mean I am oblivious to global issues such as poverty, crime, inequities and war. It does not mean that differences of opinion, and different views of the same thing do not exist and are not real, present and needing attention. What I do think however, is that those who “choose happy” see those things as situations that need to be resolved and worked out rather than something that is going to control how we feel and live our lives in the present. There is so much beauty and happiness in the world around us that is intertwined with the dark and negative. I am just choosing to focus on the good and deal with the bad rather than let the bad rule my world and thoughts leaving me to chase happiness. Why chase it? It is right in front of you. Embrace it, cling to it and let it help you get through the dark rather than the other way around? This holds true for the simplest of challenges before us as well as those things that seem insurmountable.
Henri Nouwen said it perfectly in his daily meditation:
At some moments we experience complete unity within us and around us. This may happen when we stand on a mountaintop and are captivated by the view. It may happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend. It may happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal. It may happen in church during a service or in a quiet room during prayer. But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves: "This is it ... everything fits ... all I ever hoped for is here."
These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away and everything appears empty and useless. These experiences are true moments of grace.
I suppose I have taken those “true moments of grace” and learned to live my life by focusing on those moments rather than the empty and useless ones. I think by far the greatest gift I was given…and I don’t know how or when I was given this but think if I asked Fr. Joe or Fr. Gary they would say it was always there, I just needed to discover and realize it, is the gift of hope. If you never lose hope then the world is yours. You can get through anything… losing a child, having a child with an illness you can’t “fix”, losing a grandparent, a parent, a spouse or a close friend, taking caring of a loved one who is ill, watching someone you love destroy their life with addiction, relationship struggles with your children or your spouse and dealing with even the basic everyday struggles we all go through in life, if you hold fast to hope.