Happiness Is a Choice

 

The past couple of weeks have been a challenge for me. I have not been particularly happy. By happy, I’m talking about a mental and emotional state where generally a person feels mostly pleased with life, notices the blessings he or she is experiencing, and feels a level of satisfaction and pleasure with relationships and activities. Happiness does not refer to a steady state of joy or bliss. It means choosing to see the good fortune in your life, however you define it, and not choosing to be stuck in a steady mood of anger, annoyance, frustration, and other negative states that you find yourself in. For some people, these states are not a choice. They come up on you, engulf you with disappointment, and it can seem impossible to free yourself from them. They may seem like a way of life.

That has not been my experience. Except recently.

I could give you all kinds of reasons for being stuck in the mire. I’ve lost one friend and jeopardized my relationship with another. I’m wrestling with the remnants of cancer treatment — nothing major, but they are annoying as all get-out. My allergies are going bonkers in between 24-hour pills. Yesterday, I had a mammogram on my remaining breast, and I was surprised to realize that my anxiety about the results is just below the surface. (I’m waiting patiently.) No one of these situations is a big deal but cause me just enough discomfort to feel stuck.

But it doesn’t take much to shake my commitment to misery. Today, I met with my group that meets once per month to discuss various things Jewish on Zoom. After the meeting, I sent an e-card to a delightful woman in the group who is having breast surgery tomorrow, sending her love and prayers. And this was her reply:

Thank you for your kind thoughts. You are an inspiration to me. You came through all this with a smile on your face and love in your heart. I hope I can do the same. Sarah (not her real name)

Wow. I’m not sharing her message to brag. I’m just saying there are so many things that happen in our lives that give us permission to break out of the doldrums and emerge changed. And there are so many things we can do to connect us to life in a way that lifts our spirits.

I formed this Zoom group and made new friends. I’m practicing forgiving myself when I hurt others. I’m staying open to possibility and celebrating life’s sweetness. I try to be a good friend (most of the time). I maintain (with only rare cheating) a healthy lifestyle. I smile and say hello to people I meet. I meditate. I pray. I study. And the past few days, I chose to remind myself that even if I feel alone, G-d is always present.

Yes, there are times I want to indulge my grievances and feel sorry for myself. But after a while, it’s tiring and probably boring for others.

So I chose happiness.

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There are 49 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn:

    So I chose happiness.

    Attagirl!

    • #1
  2. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I chose happiness.

    Attagirl!

    I tried, but couldn’t say it better.  Because Percival ALWAYS gets it right. Darn. (Choice not to be jealous in progress.)

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Sandy (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I chose happiness.

    Attagirl!

    I tried, but couldn’t say it better. Because Percival ALWAYS gets it right. Darn. (Choice not to be jealous in progress.)

    You said it “great” anyway, Sandy! Thanks!

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m just waiting to see if anyone disagrees with my premise–although if they do, they probably won’t read the post!

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Sandy (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I chose happiness.

    Attagirl!

    I tried, but couldn’t say it better. Because Percival ALWAYS gets it right. Darn. (Choice not to be jealous in progress.)

    • #5
  6. J. D. Fitzpatrick Member
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

    I recently rewatched It’s a Wonderful Life during a time when I was feeling a little blah. Nice reminder of all the ways in which we touch people, ways that we’ve forgotten or never even known. I know the story, of course, but there was something about seeing it played out again live. 

    • #6
  7. WiesbadenJake Coolidge
    WiesbadenJake
    @WiesbadenJake

    Susan, thank you; I think the long-term effects of past chemotherapy is not discussed enough. I have similar moments to what you are describing (sometimes the moments are hours and days, sometimes just a few minutes). How we talk to ourselves is so important in working through those dark moments.

    It is an ancient Hebrew discipline to speak to ourselves as well as our Creator:

    Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42

    I am always encouraged and challenged by your posts.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    J. D. Fitzpatrick (View Comment):

    I recently rewatched It’s a Wonderful Life during a time when I was feeling a little blah. Nice reminder of all the ways in which we touch people, ways that we’ve forgotten or never even known. I know the story, of course, but there was something about seeing it played out again live.

    Terrific example, JD. It’s hard to remember when we’re down on ourselves. Thanks.

    • #8
  9. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    A lovely reminder. I am missing my family, but looking forward to son #1’s arrival home on Monday. Dreading a flight to TX on the 23rd, but looking forward to seeing daughter and her family. While feeling sorry for myself that in 62 years, this is only the second Christmas I won’t spend with all my brothers and sisters (the last time was in 1979).

    I’ve definitely got the blahs and need to give myself a stiff slap daily to remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.

    We recently rented out our back house to my DIL’s sister, and she uses our outdoor kitchen. She sent me a text the other night that I keep going back and reading just for the smile it puts on my face. Not nearly as meaningful as your note from “Sarah”, but it’s made my week.:

    “this might be super cheesy, but I was doing dishes and looked up right when you and JY went into the kitchen, and he totally checked you out as you passed. It was the best thing I’ve ever seen, and I just had to tell you.”

    She followed up with:

    “For kids like (DIL) and me who never had a solid couple to see or emulate, you two are gold.”

    I haven’t shared it with JY, but he got a big kiss.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Annefy (View Comment):

    A lovely reminder. I am missing my family, but looking forward to son #1’s arrival home on Monday. Dreading a flight to TX on the 23rd, but looking forward to seeing daughter and her family. While feeling sorry for myself that in 62 years, this is only the second Christmas I won’t spend with all my brothers and sisters (the last time was in 1979).

    I’ve definitely got the blahs and need to give myself a stiff slap daily to remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.

    We recently rented out our back house to my DIL’s sister, and she uses our outdoor kitchen. She sent me a text the other night that I keep going back and reading just for the smile it puts on my face. Not nearly as meaningful as your note from “Sarah”, but it’s made my week.:

    this might be super cheesy, but I was doing dishes and looked up right when you and JY went into the kitchen, and he totally checked you out as you passed. It was the best thing I’ve ever seen, and I just had to tell you.”“

    She followed up with:

    “For kids like (DIL) and me who never had a solid couple to see or emulate, you two are gold.”

    I haven’t shared it with JY, but he got a big kiss.

    Sarah’s comment sounds awesome to me! I don’t think people know the major impact they can have on us. Then it’s up to us!

    • #10
  11. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    This reminds me of something my stepmother told me.  At one point in her life she had suffered some betrayals and tragedies.  She was finding it hard to make it through the day.  Then she remembered a Chinese saying she had read – “If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”

    So she decided that every day she would choose to be happy.  Whenever she thought of it, she would smile – even if she was alone. When people asked how she was, she smiled and told them, “Fine.”  After a while, she realized that she was content.  And not too much later it became happiness.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EB (View Comment):

    This reminds me of something my stepmother told me. At one point in her life she had suffered some betrayals and tragedies. She was finding it hard to make it through the day. Then she remembered a Chinese saying she had read – “If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”

    So she decided that every day she would choose to be happy. Whenever she thought of it, she would smile – even if she was alone. When people asked how she was, she smiled and told them, “Fine.” After a while, she realized that she was content. And not too much later it became happiness.

    What a wonderful saying and story to go with it. She sounds like she was an amazing woman, given her history. Thanks, EB

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WiesbadenJake (View Comment):
    I am always encouraged and challenged by your posts.

    Thanks so much, Jake. And you always inspire me with your comments.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I chose happiness.

    Attagirl!

    It’s amazing how something so simple can change everything. Thanks so much, Percival.

    • #14
  15. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    When we have a splinter in the finger it is human to focus on the splinter and not take joy just in having the finger. It is a lesson constantly in need of relearning.

    • #15
  16. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    This might not be at all what you are going through, Susan,  but for people who are stuck  inside a happiness plateau, where there haven’t been many if any recent high’s  to experience, then the holidays come along and a person’s internal expectations zoom out of control.

    I mean, how many commercials can be viewed,  and tolerated, where everyone in the TV  family is getting a brand new luxury car, complete with big red bow, if the viewer’s own life is far more humdrum?

    I’ve noticed that my personal  holiday mood seems to be inexplicable. Some holiday seasons, my focus falls on people I’ve lost, who won’t be sending a card, and can’t be reached on Dec 31st so I can  wish them “Happy New Year.” It can be very hard to not miss the dear departed family and friends during  this time of year.

    Other holidays should be festive, and merry, as every single thing has fallen effortlessly  into place. No loneliness, no problems and yet I feel blah.

    In 2016, I anticipated an awful Christmas, as my spouse was recuperating from an injury and we weren’t able to travel to visit family. I dreaded the 24th and 25th, but then my mood broke. Suddenly  I was no longer waking up on the wrong side of the bed. It ended up being the happiest two days I had experienced in December in years.

    I wish I knew the formula. Is it having more eggnog and brandy or less? Your idea of choosing happiness is damn good advice, though.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):
    I wish I knew the formula. Is it having more eggnog and brandy or less? Your idea of choosing happiness is damn good advice, though.

    Thanks, CarolJoy. I think the “formula” is being committed to a mindset of happiness. Even when it fails us, it’s readily available, waiting for us to rediscover it and welcome it in. 

    • #17
  18. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    The way I think of it, there is happiness, and there is Happiness. Little-h happiness is a pleasant mood, but capital-H-Happiness is that broader, deeper, pervasive sense of satisfaction with one’s life. And surprisingly, there is not a particularly strong correlation between the two. Indeed, there is considerable research that Happiness requires things like hard work, which doesn’t necessarily make you happy in the short term.

    I am by nature a fairly cheerful person, so I’d say I’m in a happy mood more often than not. But during the last six or seven years I have, at various times, found myself fighting a pervasive discontent that I have had a hard time explaining to myself. But I’m fairly convinced that the most important factor is locus of control: your sense of whether you are in control of your life (an internal locus of control), or whether you are just being buffeted about by events that you can’t control (an external locus of control).

    I could go on for pages (don’t worry, I won’t) about the various events in my life that began, a few years back, to make me feel (subconsciously) that I had lost my internal locus of control; I felt that my choices were constrained and that there was nothing I could do to improve things. Paradoxically, what helped was when I consciously decided to accept the constraints I faced, and stop wishing for things that were impossible; suddenly I felt liberated, because within those constraints I now had complete freedom. I could start making plans again. It’s something the Stoics figured out millennia ago, but it took me a while to catch up.

    When you’re dealing with a lot of things you can’t control, it can be very powerful to discover that something you did made a difference.

    • #18
  19. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Sandy (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I chose happiness.

    Attagirl!

    I tried, but couldn’t say it better. Because Percival ALWAYS gets it right. Darn. (Choice not to be jealous in progress.)

    You said it “great” anyway, Sandy! Thanks!

    Superb!

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    When you’re dealing with a lot of things you can’t control, it can be very powerful to discover that something you did made a difference.

    A lot of wisdom here. Thanks, BXO.

     

     

    • #20
  21. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    You’re too hard on yourself. Even tough people can’t just bounce back from all that.  Your up and down feelings are normal. You inspire many and that woman I am sure is so thankful to have a word of encouragement facing her challenges. That is enough. Then throw in the news and the current administration and the state of things and we’re all ready to run off the cliff!  But we have to take it in snippets – the good and not great.  Women are more emotional than men anyway. Don’t worry about it – our lives probably go through 20 different emotions a day.

    • #21
  22. David B. Sable Coolidge
    David B. Sable
    @DavidSable

    I opened a devotional book I haven’t look at in months and . . .

    Life is not a search for happiness.  Happiness is a byproduct of living the right kind of life, of doing the right thing.  Do not search for happiness, search for right living and happiness will be your reward.

    Life is sometimes a march of duty during dull, dark days.  But happiness will come again, as God’s smile of recognition of your faithfulness.  True happiness is always an byproduct of a life well lived.

     

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Don’t worry about it – our lives probably go through 20 different emotions a day.

    I’ve got at least 200! Thanks, FSC.

    • #23
  24. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    I don’t know what your eating habits are like, Susan, but I have found that eating a bare minimum each day is remarkable at reducing stress. It also leads to a much happier mood overall, as least for me.

    • #24
  25. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    Referencing the title of this piece:

    “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” 

    — Abraham Lincoln

    • #25
  26. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    And here’s an appropriate one from Lao Tzu:

    “If you are depressed you are living in the past.

    If you are anxious you are living in the future.

    If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

    • #26
  27. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Susan Quinn: I could give you all kinds of reasons for being stuck in the mire.

    I think you need an adventure. :-) :-) 

    • #27
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JoshuaFinch (View Comment):
    I don’t know what your eating habits are like, Susan, but I have found that eating a bare minimum each day is remarkable at reducing stress. It also leads to a much happier mood overall, as least for me.

    Joshua, I don’t eat a “bare minimum,” (although those who see how much I eat might disagree), but I don’t eat much. I just feel uncomfortable when I eat too much. At 5′ 2″ and 105 pounds, I don’t have lots of extra room.

    I just wonder if those who overeat often eat out of stress, and it’s a vicious circle: eat when you’re stressed, which stresses you more because you are hard on yourself, which causes more stress and more eating. That’s not me, but I wonder about those who overeat.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I could give you all kinds of reasons for being stuck in the mire.

    I think you need an adventure. :-) :-)

    I probably could definitely use a change of scenery. We generally take 2-3 day trips around FL, there’s so much to see. A couple of months ago we went to Daytona Beach and stopped in Deland on the way home. It’s still depressing to see so many people wearing masks, mainly staff and servers.

    • #29
  30. Malkadavis Inactive
    Malkadavis
    @Malkadavis

    Susan Quinn: Happiness does not refer to a steady state of joy or bliss.

    Why not? Sounds pretty darn good to me. If we can “choose to be happy” why not choose a steady state of joy or bliss?

    • #30
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