This week, let’s talk about happiness. I prefer to call it joy, which I believe to be more lasting and more profound.
Happiness, it has been said countless times, is always a choice. Easier said than done, but every morning, we have that option—“Will I choose joy or will I wallow in whatever it is that is getting me down?” One of my favorite websites is a place called the Daily Good because it is always filled with stories and articles that provoke and inspire, and yes, help you find what is good in your life.
Recently, I came across an article by Dana Saviuc titled “Fifteen Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy.” Fifteen will be too many to quote here, so I picked my top five, and you can read the rest online.
Dana writes that to be happier, you must learn to give up your need to always be right. “There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong—wanting to always be right—even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it,” she says.
I’ve found myself in this situation a few times in my life, weighing my options and remembering what best-selling author Wayne Dyer asked: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”
Second, she advocates, “Give up on blame.” When your locus of responsibility is always external, you make the people you live and work with miserable because even when it’s your fault, you tend to always finger-point. However, when you do that, remember, that there is only one finger pointing outward, and there are three pointing back at you. Take responsibility for your own life, feelings and mistakes.
Third, and this is my personal favorite, “Give up complaining.” No one can make you unhappy, no situation can make you depressed unless you allow it to. The trick is always in how you look at the situation. Now, if you are on the receiving end of the complaints, you can try to infuse positivity into the complainer’s life, but if that doesn’t work, you aren’t obliged to receive someone’s negative energy forever.
Swim with the tide
Fourth, “Give up your resistance to change.” As I grew older and saw more of life, survived personal heartbreak, loss and other personal and professional wars, I learned more and more to embrace change.
This morning I just read a beautiful quote by Joel Fleischman: “You can swim against the tide and get exhausted, or you can tread water and let the tide sweep you away, or you can swim with the tide and let it take you where it wants you to go.”
Reinhold Neibur’s Serenity Prayer is my mantra whenever I find myself facing a huge change, and it has always given me peace no matter what it is that I have to face.
Lao Tzu explains it this way: “Painful endings are only portals to new beginnings.” So embrace change when it comes.
Lastly, Dana suggests, to bring in joy, you must “stop living life according to other people’s expectations.” If we are always concerned with what people think about what we say and do, or what we are, we hold ourselves hostage to them.
When we are too busy pleasing everyone, something inside of us dies little by little, and suppressing so many things sets us up for illness. When something bothers you, speak up, you are entitled to that. Pay attention to your dreams, to God’s leading and never be afraid to state your case.
God of surprises
In a few days, we will mark All Soul’s Day, and I’d like to close this piece by sharing a story that happened on my birthday a few weeks ago. Every year on or around my birthday, my son Migi, who passed away when he was 4 in 1998, never fails to send me a message from above.
The message comes either as a story, a word spoken to me, or a gift from someone. This year, the day was almost over, and still there was nothing.
At the end of dinner at Felix in Greenbelt, I pored over the dessert menu. I was torn between crème brûlée or tiramisu, when my eyes fell on the photograph of a luscious banana split, and decided to share that with my daughter instead.
I gave specific instructions to the waiter about what flavors I wanted—“Only vanilla and strawberry, no chocolate, and please ditch the pineapple.” I thought of my son briefly while scooping the vanilla ice cream, and wondered why there was nothing this year.
When the bill came, I reviewed the items one by one, and my eyes popped—there was an entry for “Miguel.”
I asked the waiter, “Uhmmm, ano ’yung Miguel?” and he replied, “Ma’am, that’s your banana split po.”
Those we love live on forever in our hearts. We have a gracious God of surprises, and He never forgets. It was a lovely and poignant ending to what has been, so far, my best birthday ever.
Follow the author on Twitter @cathybabao, visit her blog www.storiesbykate.wordpress.com.