“I Control My Own Happiness”
A line from my kindergarten son’s daily affirmation song. A nice sentiment that begs the question: What makes somebody happy?
Is it life going according to your plans?
Is it getting everything you’ve ever wanted?
Is it finding a higher calling?
Is it Winning the Lottery?
I’m not a psychologist, but I think if you asked one, the answer would be that none of the items above single handedly results in happiness.
I actually think “Happiness” is a bit of a Misnomer. “Are You Happy?” This implies a continuous state of being, uninterrupted by other feelings. Our feelings ebb and flow over the course of a day, an hour, sometimes even a moment. Grief, Anger, Contentment, Delight. And, depending on our life experiences, the depth of these various feelings, all in one moment can be astounding.
I’ve observed that in the medical parenting community, when a newly diagnosed parent begs the question “Will I ever feel happy again”, you often see it answered with a different term: Joy.
“You will find Joy again.” (Hence the name of this Blog)
In the first year following Nora’s diagnosis, there was very little joy happening in any given moment. I was full of anger and resentment that everybody was continuing to live their life according to plan, while mine was crumbling around me.
But after the initial wave of shock and grief started to wear off, My husband and I agreed that we would not let ourselves be consumed by bitterness such that we live a half life. It was, and is, upon us to find the joy in life.
This is life. There’s no turning back. You don’t get a do-over. These are the cards you have been handed, and only you can decide how you will play them.
So do we ultimately control our own happiness, our own joy?
To quote a famous Grief Counselor, David Kessler: “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is Optional”
You cannot control every aspect of your life. You often can't control your circumstances. But you can control how you respond. If you've lived through a life altering experience that has cleaved your life into two parts, it may feel like trying to use muscle that has atrophied. One you have to actively retrain until it comes a bit more naturally.
The motto i try to live by:
When you can, choose Joy. And it's ok if the other feelings are there too.