It turns out its true, happiness is really a choice. No, it is, I swear. Now some of you may doubt me. I know, when I have been in the midst of a depression myself, or a life crisis, and someone has told me that happiness is a choice I wanted to tell them what they could do with their happiness.
Some of you who have been following me since the beginning may remember that when I started this blog I was a little jaded. In fact, it’s been almost two years since I first started; first on my own and then part of the BlogHer network and then on to the BDN. Maybe the word wasn’t jaded; maybe it was bitter or maybe cynical. I almost always tried to put a positive spin on things, but there was occasionally an underlying tone of pissed off. I’ll admit it because I was, essentially, pretty pissed off.
That was where the need to write came from; the need to talk about “negotiating mid-life from Mid-Maine.” What I was going through at the time was a pretty universal middle-age experience that I like to call “WTF!” It was that moment, mid-life when you look behind you and you look ahead of you and you realize that not only did things not turn out as you’d planned, but that time is getting short and you have only so many more years left to turn it all around! So I was really pissed off about that and it took a couple good friends pointing that out to me before I was able to do something about it.
It’s not that things have magically gotten all better. In fact, some really challenging stuff has gone on in the last year and a half or so. I’ve had some family issues, lost several loved ones back home, had my son almost die in a car accident, ended a relationship, and my finances are pretty much making their last swirl around the bowl on the way down. But what you come to accept at a certain age is that this is just life! It’s not some personal vendetta the Universe has against you, this stuff happens to all of us.
However, if you choose to focus on the good things, they almost always outnumber the bad. So that’s what I started doing. As simple and as stupid as it sounds, actually writing them down helps. Those mornings when you wake up, look around, and have a hard time pulling yourself up out of bed, those are the mornings you want to look back at that list. Those are the times it is so hard to remember all the wonderful amazing things in your life, and the list really helps. I know it seems foolish, I didn’t believe it either until I tried it. Yet, when I am deeply sad or having a crisis of self-confidence and feeling like a failure; I really do need something to remind me of all the things that have gone right in my life. Those are the things I need to focus on; amazing and talented kids, a great job, lots of wonderful friends, and yes, even health. You can’t take that one for granted any more at this age.
You see, it’s not that my world has changed all that much lately; it’s that I’ve changed. I had always been a pretty upbeat person but I let things drag me down for a while. It is also highly contagious, if you surround yourself with negative people, it tends to spread. Instead I’ve chosen now to surround myself with positive people, friends that will help lift me up and that I will lift up in return. One friend and I have decided to help each other maintain that positive attitude at work when things get crazy and we are both feeling overwhelmed. If you saw the “look” he has decided he will give me whenever I need it you might assume he is having a seizure of some sort, but no worries! It is at least a look that brings about spontaneous laughter!
Over the years I have read multiple articles about folks who live to be over 100. What amazes me every time I come across one of these articles is that no matter how many times scientists and doctors have looked at this they come up with pretty much the same answers. What do people who are over 100 have in common? Diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyles aren’t necessarily it. What people who live to be over 100 always have in common are two things, a positive attitude and a family history of longevity. Now scientists tend to believe that the family history piece is genetic. I think it’s because positive attitudes are contagious also. If you have a family that focuses on being positive, and they raise children who focus on being positive, well before long you’ve got a trend going on.
Again, that doesn’t mean these families don’t have problems. In fact, it is often the opposite. Some of the people with the most incredibly positive attitudes have often also had the most difficult lives. They have just learned how to pull themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep going. I think another contributing factor is that once you have survived some really awful stuff you begin to see all the small stuff in perspective and you CHOOSE to see the positive. You CHOOSE to focus on the good. You CHOOSE to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary some days, that being truly happy is possible!
You see, happiness doesn’t just happen. It isn’t about luck. It isn’t about getting everything you’ve always wanted. Happiness isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to fight for it, demand it even. No, we can’t always control the circumstances of our lives, but we can control our own reactions to them. We can control our own choices and one of those choices is to just be happy anyway!
“To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy . . . is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson