A friend of mine passed away recently and I attended her funeral and celebration of life. It was a sad time with lots of tears, but there was also a lot of laughter as people remembered her and the mark she made on each of our lives. My friend was kind and loving, the one in the group who was always looking for something nice to say about everyone.
As people talked and shared stories, the one story that was repeated over and over was how my friend made a conscious decision every morning to be happy that day. She didn’t commit to forever, she just committed to that one day. On most days, she would declare that day “the best day ever!”
There has been a lot written about living your life this way. Hell, I’ve written about it; it’s a great philosophy. But to actually live that way, day after day? That isn’t easy. It takes focus and effort to not let yourself become angry or bitter about the events of your day or the patterns of your life.
While focusing on happiness, you also have to acknowledge your emotions. I went through a period in my life when I didn’t think I was allowed to feel angry or upset, because I was on a spiritual path and was above that behavior. Instead, I swallowed my emotions and tried to always put on a happy face. Thanks to that equally unhealthy attitude, I developed a lovely case of collagenous colitis that made me sick for years. I learned that you can’t ignore the bad things that happen in your life, but you can choose not to dwell on them.
Sometimes it’s hard for people to feel happy if they’re worrying about how other people act towards them, or about the things they say about them. This is a wasted effort. Nothing you do will ever make everyone else happy or thrilled to be in your presence. A saying I learned when studying Buddhism is: “What you think of me is none of my business.” How freeing that statement is.
Trying to keep other people happy is tied to the fear of other people’s judgement. Regardless of what other people think of you, or what they say to you, you have to put your energy into what feels right to you, not what will please “them”. You need to be conscious of not intentionally hurting others, but you have to take care of yourself first. As they tell you on every airplane flight: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.”
A few years ago I learned that for me, fear was what almost always fueled my anger or negativity. It makes sense to be afraid of physical danger and to take precautions to prevent being exposed to it. What doesn’t make as much sense to our survival is to be afraid of looking silly, or of being thought stupid, or of not being included. Too often though, these are the fears that trigger a negative reaction.
Since my friend’s services earlier this week, I have made a point every morning, of being like my friend and choosing to be happy. Trust me, I don’t always wake up happy or excited about my day. Like everyone else, I have bad moods and things happening in my life that aren’t exactly the stuff that inspires happiness. But, just like my friend learned, how you react to life is totally up to you.
One of the wisest things my mother every said to me was: “Quit reacting and start acting, Jean Ann.” Unfortunately, it took the death of a very nice lady to remind me of this. Thank you Mom and Terri.
(This post was originally published on my previous website, Jasmine Petals Thoughts.)