It is actually quite funny that I named my blog “Happy Choices Happy Life” because the first time I heard someone call happiness a choice, it irritated thepeejeebers out of me!
I was talking to my mom on the phone. My mom was super stressed because her parents had failing health and were going to move into a house next door to my parents. My mom was worried about my grandmother who would be moving far away from all of her friends and most of her relatives. When my mom asked my grandmother if she would be Ok, my grandmother said, “I choose to be happy.”
At the time, I believed I had the hardest life anyone had ever lived because I was in college full time, working as a waitress, and my life was full of “emotional stress”. Hearing about what my grandmother said, regrettably, did not fill me with admiration for her. Instead, it irritated me. I wanted her to whine and complain more. I’m not sure what I thought a worse attitude would accomplish, but to my young adult mind, it just seemed very necessary that you let people know when you were unhappy with something. I remember ranting to myself, “Choose to be happy?! What does that even mean? It’s not like I choose to be unhappy…”
When I was younger, I thought my grandmother was weak because she never reacted to the grouchiness of anyone around her. Her response to a snide comment would always be meek and sweet. I wanted her to drop an f-bomb or something. I remember walking into her room one time and she strained to sit up. She was obviously in a lot of pain, it showed on her face as it contorted while she strained to sit. She took a deep breath and then told me a corny joke and laughed. Why didn’t she complain? Why didn’t she whine? Didn’t she want us all to know how much pain she was in and feel sorry for her? I didn’t get it!
As an actual adulty adult, I have a tremendous amount of respect for my grandmother. I’m married now and I know that it takes a whole lot more strength to endure an undeserved criticism than to be defensive about it. I could actually be the queen of sarcastic biting comebacks for even a perceived insult, but having a great attitude….that is still a work in progress.
So…. through the years, I have learned that happiness is indeed an attitude that you can choose. It isn’t as simple as I had hoped. It actually takes practice and planning in every area of your life from sleep habits to focusing your thoughts throughout the day.
I do not write to you as an expert, but as a fellow traveler. I may be further down the road than you (or not!) but I still haven’t arrived. I’m growing and learning and I want to share what I’ve learned.
I’m dividing my posts into several categories which are all areas that I feel need to be focused on in order to maintain a happy outlook on life. My advice is to pick a new strategy to focus on each week and keep adding strategies… until you have faced every problem you have and achieve absolute perfection! LOL /sarcasm!
Here are my categories (subject to change as I organize my thoughts and mounds of journal entries)
Attitude- Every time I talk about attitude, I think of Stuart Smalley skits from Saturday Night Live... He satirized the positive thinking culture which tried to live in denial by claiming everything was great. I have never been able to convince myself that I’m perfect. I find much more freedom and fulfillment in admitting that I’m extremely flawed, so is everyone else, I’m working on getting better, and it’s an awesome journey come join me!
Health- Obviously, if you look at my picture, I’m not a fitness model. However, I absolutely know that what I eat and how much I exercise has a HUGE impact on how I feel and my ability to cope with all that life throws at me. I’m currently trying to get back into the habit of working out 6X a week. I should get back to tracking my calories….I will get back to you on that one…I really don’t want to!!!
Finances- Uh oh! Yup how you spend your $ has a huge impact on how happy you are. It’s not so much about how much money you make as it is about how content you can be with what you have. I have developed some strategies that have helped me from the time my family of 5 lived on a grad student salary of $18,000/yr to what my hubby makes now (which is more…!)
Balance- We all have to find our own balance that works for us. Everyone around me knows when one area of my life is completely out of whack. The employees at Wal-Mart especially know, as this seems to be the place that stresses me out the most! My kids have actually said to me, “Uhhm mom, you are losing it, I think you need to go have a quiet time!” We all need times of productivity, reflection, rest, relaxation, and socializing. The amounts we need of each area vary slightly from person to person, but finding balance is important.
Faith*- though I have left strict instructions for my family to burn all of my journals after my death, (because I share the me before prayer in there! Some people don't need to know how I initially felt about them!) I will be sharing excerpts from my devotional journals.
*I know when I mention faith that it is a HUGE turn off for many people. I get it! Sadly, when I hear someone claim to be a Christian, my go-to reaction is that I expect them to be judgmental. Much of what we see in our culture of Christians today is very far from what Jesus taught. My encounters with this part of church culture have lead me to some of the following frustrated outbursts (which didn’t help!), “claiming to follow Jesus and being a snob is like joining the NRA in the name of Gandhi!”, “What part of dying to yourself to follow Jesus made you so self-absorbed?” and “Oh dear Lord, have you even heard of Jesus?”
If I depended on what I see quite often from people who claim Christianity, I would walk/ run away too! However, I know my weaknesses. I know the things I struggle with. I know how easily addicted I am. I know how much I enjoy doing things that harm me and my relationships. I see glimpses of the me I would be without God in my life and it is not a pretty picture. I don’t understand how people hear Jesus’ message of grace and turn it into a reason to condemn others. What I do know is that the message I find in the Bible gives me peace, hope, and love for others. It is a really awesome way to live and I want others to see it.
So, I hope that we can all grow in these areas and make more choices that lead to happiness!