Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy is a Choice!

People usually label me as an optimist. If someone chipped a nail, I would rejoice and say it was time to treat them to a new manicure. If they had a fight with their boyfriend, I would recommend a great place to go for a romantic make-up dinner. Once my friend's car was stolen, so I promptly reminded her that she didn't really like the paint job on it any way so, now that she had a hefty insurance check in her pocket, she could have a little fun car shopping. Some people have even said my "bubbliness" was so extreme that it could be downright nauseating. And maybe that is so, but if I had a choice between smiling and crying, my eyes just look dreadful when they are all puffy, so crying is just out!

This is not to say that I'm not capable of sympathizing with people who are hurting. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on, I am always ready to step in with the tissue box. A dear friend of mine struggles with serious medical issues that land her in the hospital for weeks at a time throughout the years. Whenever she is overcome by her illness, I always come to her hospital room armed with Chuy's, an ice cold Coke, a deck of cards, and a box of tissues. We end up chatting, crying, praying, stuffing ourselves silly, and then laughing so hard we nearly wet ourselves, followed by a quick shuffle and a round of cards. Okay, so it may not sound very healthy to the casual observer, but this cycle is the only thing that keeps us from sinking into the pit of defeat - whatever works right!! Anyway, the last time we were forced to do the hospital dance, I told her that I thought she was just in need of a holiday and had concocted an excuse to get out of doing laundry. She giggled at my suggestion, took a long sip of her ice cold Coke, and began to shuffle the deck. It isn't that we are ignorant to the gravity of the situation, but smiling and laughing about it makes it that much more endurable.

When I went to college, I saw just how much hurt the average person carried around with them on a daily basis. Other students in my classes seemed so lost, afraid of loneliness, and uncertain about what they wanted out of life. It was not uncommon to pass by a group of students walking slowly to their classes with their shoulders hunched forward with a defeated look upon their face. They were absolutely miserable! I, on the other hand, was the happiest I had ever been! Since my path towards becoming a teacher has always been clear to me, I was ecstatic to be there. Suddenly, people weren't picking on me but were really nice to me... It was okay to be the smart nerdy type in college, because in that place intelligence was rewarded. Professors were drawn to me, my peers always wanted to be in my study group, and I had a steady date with my man every Friday! It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life!

Once I graduated, I found that my happy spirit served me well inside the classroom as well. My students all called me "the cool teacher" because I saw nothing wrong with taking a chocolate break during Math time or doing jumping jacks prior to engaging in a Science experiment. We would make up songs to learn our vocabulary words or do a dance to help aid us in our discussion in History. All the parents liked me too, because their kids suddenly didn't hate school so much. Things were going well and being happy was the easiest it had ever been.

But, as we all know, the storms eventually come... a few years ago, I miscarried my second child. The act of losing my child was enough to push me into one of the most intensely tragic periods of my life. I was devastated. Of course, the initial loss was only one part of it - the corresponding medical issues that accompanied that loss carried on for a couple of months afterward. Although I was very blessed to have a truly supportive husband and family, and a group of very loving friends to carry me through, it was one of the darkest times in my life. I would just move from day to day, trying my best not to fall apart, hoping no one would see me, wanting desperately to disappear inside my grief.

Then one day I realized that I had two very distinct choices on how I would approach my life. I could continue on, wallowing in my misery and begin pushing those special people away from me, holding on to the pain I was feeling OR I could begin again. I could try to snatch back those threads of happiness I had woven around my life, to look for the sunshine through those clouds. I had experienced the depth of that darkness. It was cold, ugly, and a bottomless pit that would hold no joy. I suddenly realized that it was my choice…continue to sink into it, or fight my way out. It really wasn't all that hard to make that choice.

So, here I am….a bit thicker skinned than I once had been, but still the optimistic bubbly girl with nothing but the highest hopes for the future. I know that the storms of life may rain on my parade again, but I also know that I will make it through the storm to see that rainbow up in the sky later on. (Pardon the cliché.) My point is that happiness is not just some attribute that you are either born with or not... it's a choice. Every day, when that foot hits the floor, you have to make the choice to laugh and push through the pain, or to surrender to it and give up. Which choice will you be making?? Now, grab an ice cold coke and start dealing!!

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