Happiness is My Choice

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” John Lennon

I just finished reading a book called “Happiness is a Choice You Make,” by John Leland. He’s a journalist who followed six elders for a year. Through interviews he gained a great deal of insight into what keeps these people alive in spite of the many challenges of aging. Leland shares what he learned as a result: that happiness is a choice.

When I look outside myself for happiness I will probably never find it. Happiness that is linked to something outside of myself doesn’t last. If I tell myself that I’ll be happy when I get a new car. If only I get to go on that vacation I can be happy. Or when I finally publish that book I will be happy. What happens when the car gets old, the vacation is over or the book stops selling? Sorry to say, you probably won’t find happiness.

What our elders can teach us is that we find happiness when we choose it. In spite of the pain, the losses, the changes and the uncertainty of the future, the wisdom of old age demonstrates that it is up to us. Despite our problems, we can be happy. They don’t have to prevent us from being content right now, in this moment. Happiness is the choice of those who accept what is happening around them and move along through life with a positive attitude. Add a good dose of ‘selective forgetfulness’ and you’ll find a way of life that is pleasant regardless of storms raging around us.

The lesson was to find happiness not in the absence of pain and loss, but in their acceptance.” John Leland

The mind will always be able to find reasons not to be happy. Is dissatisfaction our ‘go-to’ way of thinking? Perhaps that’s how we were raised. No one will deny that inventions and changes have been the result of this dissatisfaction with the way things are. But perhaps I can be accepting of the way things are and still work to change the things I can.

There will always be things that I can focus upon that will bring me down: politics, violence, poverty, weather. However, I can also acknowledge their existence without letting it send me into a depression. So, in spite of these things, I choose to be happy. I choose to focus on the present, the gift of today. Yesterday may not have been so good, but that doesn’t mean that today can’t bring many gifts.

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Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

The key to life, as John Lennon said, is happiness. And while the aged many have fewer moments in their future that I do, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone. It is up to me to use happiness as the key to open the door to a life which is full of happiness, joy and freedom. It’s my choice to make. I choose happiness.

The Uncluttered Mind

I read a blog from a friend who is moving to a much smaller home and is going through the process of de-cluttering.  She’s sorting through all sorts of things she’s been dragging around for many years and filling up the recycle bins at a stunning pace.  My sister and her wife just moved into a highrise condo.  After garage sales, generous donations to the local resale store and recycle bins, they are unwilling to being the cycle of accumulation again. Good for all of them.  I know there’s nothing like moving to a new country with only a few suitcases to prioritize what is important. Of course, I have accumulated more ‘stuff’ but I tend to do so a bit more mindfully, acquiring what I need, and not necessarily what I want.

Deal with it

I try to do the same thing with my mind.  How much crap do I have stuffed into this brain that clutters and confuses? How many old feelings and beliefs do I carry along with me. I remember Jim Carrey’s movie: Eternal Sunsrhine of the Spotless Mind, where a couple have their memories of each other removed after they break up. That technology, of course, doesn’t exist; I can’t simply erase the clutter from my mind. I have to, somehow, deal with it.

I wasn’t the best at dealing with emotions, feeling. I wasn’t taught how to deal with them. I don’t think my family was much different than any other at the time. Expressions of mild happiness or contentment, and anger could be expressed. Anything else was viewed with suspision. Someone who appeared too happy?  Hmmm, something’s up with them. Expressions of love? Well other than your mother, you didn’t say the ‘L’ word outside of an intimate relationship. Fear? Not me! Jealousy? I’m above that. Sadness? Boys don’t cry. Lonely? Confused? Just muddle through but don’t let anyone know. Men don’t talk about feelings. Period!

I didn’t know how 

The problem is, I still had all of these feelings. The way I learned to deal with them was with supression aided by a generous dose of alcohol or whatever. That was the only coping mechanism I learned. I had to do something because the feeling were churning around inside me. Alcohol was an acceptable release. Smoking up one could leave it all behind. And once in my reduced world of the altered mind, I felt free of those feelings or I could express them and, the next day, have the excuse, “Boy was I ever drunk last night!” And everyone understood.

I will never forget the first few meetings I attended. Men were talking about how they were feeling!  They were using phrases like, ‘I was afraid’, ‘I was wrong’ and ‘I needed help’! I hadn’t heard those words before. Not said in public. And especially not by straight men in Perth County! We don’t talk like that!

After I got over my disbelief,  I learned. Expressing my feelings is healthy and important. It was absolutely necessary for me to learn how to deal with them if I was going to stay sober and find the serenity, courage and wisdom I prayed for.

Express Yourself

I learned that feelings do not go away. I can only repress them. Perhaps that’s why I was an addict; I had been stashing up so many feelings that it took more and more of whatever to keep them down and stop me from exploding. I learned that I could talk about what I was feeling in meetings, in prayer and with my sponsor. In working the steps and making them part of my life I learned to deal with things as they came along and not stuff them under the proverbial rug hoping they’d disappear. I’ve learned that a tenth step can not only be used for promptly admitting my faults but also promptly admitting my feelings and talking about them. It helps me to grow and thrive. As Madonna’s sings, “Express yourself, respect yourself.”

I can’t say that I always am successful in uncluttering my mind, but I know I’m much better at it now. I’m learning to deal with it and move on. I can’t change the past but it has become useful in that I can learn from it, hopefully not repeating it. My feelings are my feelings and there’s nothing right or wrong about them but I do have to work with them if I want to be happy, joyous and free.

♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment and offer suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.


Coming Back Full Circle

“There’s no place like home!” said Dorothy as she clicked her heels together.  And POOF I am back in my home town again.  Okay, it wasn’t a poof, rather a five hour plane ride, but considering the distances travelled, it was rather quick indeed. And here I am again in the city where I was born.

I arrived here two days ago.  Last time I was here was almost two and a half years ago. It’s the same and it’s different.  I arrived alone this time as I am separated. I’m staying with Mom at her home of over twenty years. She’s getting a bit older, a bit slower. My best friend Bill is no longer among the living.  The city has finally removed the bus terminal and parking in the city centre and created a wonderful square. Some shops have gone and new ones have appeared. I went to a meeting this morning at my former home group from when I lived here, and they’ve moved to another location. Things move on, things change and yet they are still recognizable.

The river is constantly changing.

There’s a Buddhist saying that basically says we never step into the same river twice. The water is moving along.  The bank erodes in one area and silts up in another. Trees die and fall off the bank of the river and new ones grow up and take their place.   Nothing stays the same. After all, a river that stops moving is no longer a river; it is a pond and without movement will eventually become stagnant and smell.  A river, by its very nature, must move and flow. Places change, people change and when I take an honest look at myself, I realize that I am not the same person I was the last time I was here. At least I hope I am not.

Sometimes change happens very quickly, such as a death, or an accident. They are very obvious and if we resist them; they can cause us much discomfort and pain. I think most change happens at a much slower pace, so slow in fact, that we fail to appreciate the changes that are happening around us.  One day I stepped on the scales and realized that I had gained 25 pounds over the past few years. Another day I looked at my arm and realized that my skin was sagging and not as taut as it once was. These changes are slow but steady and can come as quite a surprise.  However, I can use this rate of change to my advantage.

 Small changes add up

I touched on this theme of change last week in suggesting that we do one thing at a time, rather than try to do too much all at once. Today I am suggesting that those changes I make do not need to be big ones.  Small changes, with time, can add up to a big change. Smaller changes have a better chance at taking hold in my daily habits. I don’t remember the whole story of the race between the rabbit and the tortoise, but I know the tortoise’s attitude of slow and steady got him to the finish line first.

Progress, not Perfection

I think about my first sponsor in the program.  He is a humble, loving man devoted to his program and his family.  Yet when I first heard the story about his addiction, I couldn’t believe that he was the same man.  And he really wasn’t.  The Paul that he was is not the Paul who he is today. Why? Slow and steady changes: following the suggestions of the program, his sponsor and developing a relationship with his Higher Power. Our motto is Progress not Perfection. As long as I am moving in the direction of my goal, it doesn’t matter what the pace is.  I can slip and fall but I can also get back up again and keep trudging ahead.

I am sure that I will notice more changes as the days of my visit go along. I have come back again but I am not the same person as when I left.  Those I will meet up won’t be the same either. I will remember that change is most natural.  I have stepped into the river again here, and it is not the same river. I am grateful.

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♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment and offer suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.