I’ve been thinking about choices lately. That we start making them from the moment we wake up. Whether to squeeze navel oranges for juice (sweet citrus nectar) or to pour juice from the carton. To heat up a flaky croissant in the oven because it’s Saturday morning or to eat cereal with fresh blueberries and two percent milk like the rest of the week. To drink more than one cup of coffee while savoring reading the New York Times?
Then, onto other ones. To be annoyed about goings on that disturb the peaceable morning, or to let it go since it’s really not that big a deal? To limit how much picking up to do because it doesn’t really matter since I’m the only one who seems to notice anyway? And so it goes as the day unfolds.
It seems to me that there are two sides of my brain going on most of the time: to enjoy and appreciate what I see (gorgeous mums glowing in the morning light) or (untidy hose lying near the faucet.) Experiencing the light (gorgeous melody coming out of the piano) or shadow (dissonance from misreading some of the notes.) Maybe if I didn’t think so much of the time, I’d be able to react to things without having to choose which reaction I want to stay with.
Of course, being holistic allows us to see more than either-or options. Our Western culture is bifocal: right or wrong, black or white. We could choose to see all the shades between and see a greater whole, even being at ease with ambiguity and ambivalence.
I guess the biggest choice of all, at least for me, is consciously choosing to be happy. Even if there are still concerns about how some things may turn out in the future. And, when reading the paper can be disquieting almost all the time. Or, seeing how utterly dumb some members of Congress seem to think we, the American public, are. There’s also a thick layer of self-serving earnestness going on with publicity-seekers that our media seems to think is newsworthy these days. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice on TV’s new Fall programming that isn’t about revenge, sex, guns, violence or the most vapid of (new!) situation comedies.
So, back to a choice to be happy. I guess that one could choose to stay stuck in a small shuttered vision of what life can be and resign ourselves to it: whether it’s due to a lack of resources, time (we think we’re too old), or we are hung up (frozen by indecision or habit) OR the worst argument of all: that’s the way we’ve always been and we don’t think we can change. Or, we think that other people have an idea of us and we’re stuck with that, even if we’d like to be different.
Well, I’m ready. My cousin Pei-Fen entreated me to “be happy” right before she died. I remember that often because it’s up to me, no one else. I can choose to be happy, with self-awareness and intention. It also entails giving myself permission to break my mold somehow and to be content with being happy. How hard can that be?
Postscript (two weeks later): If you’re at all interested, I’ve found a few behavioral modification tips that have raised my score for being able to be happy (how hard can it be?) It’s kind of hard, actually, unless:
1. When you react to something that feels negative, the first thing to consider is whether it’s under your control or not. If not, let it go and stop thinking about it. Do not brood about it.
2. When something IS under your control, either do something constructive about it, or let it go and stop thinking about it.
3. When something happens that makes you happy or excited, SAVOR that reaction and marinate in it for a little while. Share the good feeling with someone if you feel like it.
4. Get enough sleep.
5. Ask yourself every once in awhile if you are feeling more happy than you were before you started choosing to be happy. I’m happy to report that we are, in fact, happier! Both of us!