As my dear husband often reminds me, everyone has an opinion. Sometimes I read opinions on Facebook, or internet news, that irritate me. As I love to stir the pot, my opinions may irritate others. I have an opinion about nearly everything under the sun, so I apologize for any irritation I may have caused! Perhaps today’s blog will be easier.
Today I wade in on happiness. This week there have been opportunities to ponder it, because I have just witnessed someone who threw it away to nurse grievances. I believe that happiness, in ways not dissimilar to love, largely depends on choice.
What is fed and nurtured grows; what isn’t fed can die.
I am not a gloomy person. I am naturally contented, pleased and thankful about all manner of things, great and small. In some measure I suppose I was nurtured that way. I had parents who, despite hardships and sorrows, chose to focus on the many people and projects that brought joy into their lives, the rich tapestry of friends they had, the joyful banter they exchanged with one another, the goodness they saw around them. They believed in being kind to others. They spent time nurturing the love between them.
My parents were guardians to several people in care facilities and often visited elderly friends in nursing homes. They never went empty handed and they took time to visit. Added to the requested things (perhaps reading matter or clothes) was some home baked treat, perhaps cookies. They sat with them, visited, brought smiles to others. They were not superficial people. They had lived through the depression, my father’s army years and service in WWII. They were well aware that horrific evil, in addition to garden variety evil, mean spiritedness, petty slander, death, mental illness, dread disease, and the ordinary sins of envy and greed, occupied space in the world. They knew, as I have learned, that there are many things in life that can’t be changed.
Life is often harsh and sometimes cruel. Regardless, there is still happiness to be found. It is still ours to choose happiness no matter how bad a particular situation is. When my husband and I had nearly no discretionary income and worried about paying the next bill, we still counted our blessings. We still had a roof over our heads. We still had food to eat. We still had loving friends and family, and each other. It was during that time that my husband chose to take me by the hand out in the back yard to start teaching me about stars. It is with pleasure that I find I am making baby steps of progress! I can now identify the mighty hunter Orion, and pick out the cluster of stars that is Pleiades. I finally know where Sirius is to be found. It has brought my husband joy to share with me something he has learned; it has brought me pleasure to be able to identify a few landmarks in the night sky.
In contrast to a college friend who woke up every morning cursing the heavens for another damn day, my husband wakes up, puts on his Scottish brogue, and begins by giving thanks for the day: “Glory be to Jesus, what a beautiful morning. ” As he often reminds me, every morning that we wake up, we have a day of new possibilities.
I believe that happiness is a decision; it is a choice. We cannot choose to have a care free life. We cannot choose to be spared hardship. What we can choose is how we will respond to what we face. Will we curse the heavens and nurture the anger and hatred we feel toward people who have wronged us? My husband and I choose happiness: praise goodness when we see it; encourage kindness; praise people who build each other up rather than slandering those with whom they disagree. When great sinners take baby steps toward thinking of others rather than themselves, they should be praised. Those things provide seeds for happiness.
I would also say that we believe that all that exists does so because God wills it. Which means that when we give thanks, we give thanks to God. When our lives are blessed with friends and good things, we give thanks to God. When death comes, we don’t curse the heavens. We live trusting in the promises of God that the story doesn’t end with death. That promise makes everything different.
We know that love trumps hate; light banishes darkness; goodness triumphs over evil. Happiness lightens corners and pushes away sorrow and sadness. Embrace goodness. Pray for those with whom you disagree. Choose, despite all odds, happiness. Give thanks when you see glimmers of it. It is a blessing and it is a choice.