I like birthdays. I believe in birthday weeks and the honoree being able to dictate the entire day. I love all that birthdays symbolize and celebrating life and how special a person feels when everyone who loves them tells them that they’re thankful that they were born. I am especially fond of a day that serves as an excuse to eat some form of treats with every meal.
I know so many people who hate birthdays—people who feel like if they ignore the day all together, they can somehow manage to avoid the fact that they are, no matter their attempts at reversal, aging. I’ve never agreed but I understand; mortality is uncomfortable to think about— let alone, accept. But, and though it may be morbid, the fact is that the alternative to celebrating a birthday and aging is… well… death. So many people aren’t afforded the luxury of celebrating another birthday so I make the effort to not take the gift of aging and living for granted by ignoring its inevitability or hopelessly attempting to avoid it.
Birthdays also present the perfect opportunity to reflect and to set intentions for the year ahead. Last night at dinner, Joe asked me how I’m feeling going into this next year and, for what seems like the first time in a very long time, I could honestly say that I feel utter contentment. Being able to say that— and actually mean it— feels like the ultimate accomplishment after this last year. Nothing dramatic happened this last year; rather, this last year provided me 365 days of opportunities to face myself in the mirror and sort out my shit. Not one single area of my life was exempt from strife— motherhood, my marriage, my family, my friendships, my mental and physical health, et. al. This merely means that who I am within every single facet and role of my life was given another chance to know better, to do better, and to expand and grow from the person I was the day before.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? When you face trials, you hope that you’re able to learn from it, coming to know better, and then— ideally—to do better. What I’ve realized this year is that any alternative is, to some degree, self-sabotage and the process of doing is a choice.
Ultimately, in spite of what may happen to us in life, we can only control how we react and how we use the experience to our advantage (or disadvantage) moving forward. More simply, happiness IS a choice. I used to cringe when people would say that to me or I’d run across it on Instagram under a picture of some perfectly curated messy kitchen or tropical sunrise.
HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. How very novel.
I’d always think, It must be easy for you to say when you’re not clinically fucking depressed. It must be easy for you to say when you haven’t slept in seven years. Easy for you to say when you haven’t gone through trauma or sexual abuse or insert any X, Y, or Z that makes it easier for me to justify not being happy.
But, as it turns out, they were right. Happiness is an active choice and a learned skill that we have the ability to train just like anything else.
I can choose happiness by deciding to overcome the things that often make happiness seem like an elitist, privileged goal. I can choose happiness by not allowing life and all of its’ challenges to distract me from all that remains in in my life to be happy about. I can choose happiness by showing gratitude for every thing and every person that matters to me, always. I can choose happiness by showing empathy for others because I remember all too well what it’s like to be in the dark. I can choose happiness by keeping life’ challenges in perspective and focusing on the good that can and will come from any bad. I can choose happiness by leaning into discomfort because I know that the only way out is through. I can choose happiness by doing more things that make me feel good about myself and avoiding things/situations/people that make me feel badly.
I can choose to be happy because I deserve happiness and firmly believe that it’s always within my grasp so long as I do the things required of me that aid my holding onto it.
This isn’t to say that I don’t choose to acknowledge or continue to experience the darker parts of life or choose to pretend like shittiness doesn’t exist or bury my head in the sand until the problem goes away. Life happens and will continue to find creative and successful ways to get me down. But that truth only exists on the opposite side of the same coin where happiness lives. I don’t necessarily want both but the fact is that I need both in order to distinguish one from the other and to appreciate one when faced with its alternative.
As I enter into this next revolution around the sun, my only intention of consequence is to continue doing better now that I know better. I’ll do that by holding myself accountable to making happiness my choice. No matter the situation making happiness the more difficult route, I must remember that it’s still a choice I will always remain solely in control of making.
Life is beautiful, friends.
Go celebrate it, go do better, and choose happiness.
Cheers to another one…