Saturday, December 10, 2011

Choose Happiness

“If you wait for someone to make you happy, you may not have to wait long. But if you’re waiting for someone to sustain your happiness, you will be waiting a life time.”
                                                   Cindy Charlton
       “Happiness runs in a circular motion…you can be happy if you let yourself be.” These are lyrics to a song I used to sing when I was a child. The tune was simple and easy to harmonize with, which was why I liked it.  But as I think about this song, I begin to realize that although the tune is simple, the lyrics are profound.

     I was working out at the YMCA a few years back. In my shorts and t-shirt, every limb that I have replaced with plastic and metal was hanging out for anyone to see. I was working hard, sweat dripping down my face.  I cannot even suggest that I was a vision of loveliness.  With my ear buds firmly in place, my head was buzzing with the tunes of Gloria Estefan, Tina Turner, and other Diva’s of the 90’s.  Humming along, and pumping iron, I felt incredible!

     “Excuse me…excuse me.”

      I looked up at a man who was obviously trying to get my attention. I thought he was after the machine I was working on, so I replied “I only have one more rep., and then it’s all yours.” He shook his head and gave me a wan smile. Obviously he was not after the Shoulder Press.  I was listening to a song which I had heard at least a hundred times over the past 6 months. I was intimately acquainted with it, and I knew the note coming up was one I didn’t want to miss. I pushed the pause on my ipod, and took one bud from my ear.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” he began, “but I just have to ask…” 

     I knew his question before it had the chance to escape his lips…, “What happened to you?” So when he asked a question I didn't expect, I was a bit taken aback.

“I’ve been watching you for awhile, and I just want to know, why are you so happy?”

     “Why am I so happy?” I reiterated, on the verge of incredulity.  I have been asked many questions in my life, but no one has ever questioned my happiness.

   I sort of stammered my reply, “Well…why shouldn’t I be?”

“It’s pretty obvious that you’ve been through some…some really difficult times.”

     He had no idea. I had lost my husband to cancer the previous year.  And I had lived through my own “death sentence,” sacrificing three limbs and half of my chest in exchange for my life.  My story could have taken up the remaining songs on my ipod. 

   I sat there, for a moment, collecting my thoughts before I answered. “I’m happy because I’m here on this planet sucking in air, listening to some amazing music, and working my butt off. I know without a doubt how lucky I am to be alive.” 
“I wish I had your attitude,” he sighed. 

     We spent the next several minutes talking about life, all it has to offer, all it takes away. He shared some things that were happening in his life, which were difficult at best.  At the end of our conversation I told him that even though my path was filled with obstacles, I considered them challenges, not pitfalls. “I’m the person who always finds the silver lining, not the storm cloud that goes along with it.”  “I believe,” I said, “it’s all in the choice…how you perceive the obstacles.”

     His wan smile turned more into a warm smile. He said “thank you” and walked away. I stuck in my ear bud, un-paused Tina, and together we pumped out the last rep.  

       Happiness has been an emotion which comes quite easily to me…like making up harmonies to songs. It’s second nature. Over the years, however, I have found that happiness is not an easy emotion for many people to feel.  I am one of those fortunate souls who came into this world with my “cup half full.” My mom often said that I was born with a glass of champagne in my hand. A celebration always was, and still is, just bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to emerge for any reason. 
     I’m not saying that I’m happy 24/7, especially when circumstances have caused me to lose my balance and fall. Believe me; I have “fallen” many times in my life, and at those times I’ve had to find the one thing to get me back on my feet, giving me something to hold onto—to  regain my balance. I have found that it’s my own happiness which not only helps me get up, and re-establish my balance, but it sustains me as I continue to  climb over the obstacle to move forward in my life. 

     Happiness is a necessary tool in the Survivor’s tool kit.  When despair and difficulty find their way into your life, reaching for your happiness, finding it within yourself, even when times are tough, will allow you freedom from the storm. It allows you clearer brighter vision, so that you’ll be able to see the silver lining, and stay on your feet as you continue to move forward on your path.  Happiness really does run in a circular motion, allow it, feel it, allow it, feel it…  “you can be happy if you let yourself be.”