“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” (Mildred Barthel)
Have you ever met someone who seems only to be happy if they are unhappy? You know the kind of person I mean. The cliché would be to say that their glass is half empty, but that is not nearly enough. They are the kind of person who will also complain that the glass has water and not something else, or that the water is warm instead of cold, or that someone left this half-glass out instead of putting in the dishwasher. I think you get the picture.
There are some people who just never can see the happy side of things. For them, every silver lining has a cloud, and a pitcher of lemonade means there is a rotting pile of lemon rinds somewhere. They see something on the news and they complain about it. They instantly see all of the problems, and none of the possibilities.
To use one of those fifty-cent words, they are curmudgeonly.
Notice how easy it is for me to come up with examples of this kind of person? That is because all too often I AM THAT PERSON!
More often than I really care to admit, and far more often that I wish were the case as I sit here this morning, I realize that I am the person who sees the bad, and not the good. For any situation I can tell you 4, 5 or 6 things that can go wrong. I can see the pitfalls and future troubles of any positive idea. I can rain on even the sunniest of parades.
And, when a negative situation arises, I see only the ultimate, “logical” conclusion of the circumstances, which invariably is ruin and destruction. I won’t see the possibility of the phoenix rising from the ashes, I see only that there will be a nasty fire.
Today’s quote reminds me that happiness isn’t something that just happens to me, or to anyone else. It is about making the decision to be happy. I would take it just a little further and say that it is about a series of decisions, made continuously, to see things in a positive light. Happiness is about deciding to be content, rather than constantly jealous and yearning. It is about seeing the beauty of the flowers, and not the gathering clouds above. It is about seeing the future celebration, rather than the present strife.
I am not saying that I should never look at things realistically. Nor am I advocating that I should only own rose colored glasses. In any situation there is always a need to be realistic. One cannot just be a Pollyanna who flits about like a butterfly from one happy circumstance to another. There is a need to watch the skies for storms, if for no other reason than to seek safety. There is good reason to assess a bad situation with a realism that helps drive out positive next steps. There is even a prudence to looking ahead and seeing possible pitfalls of an idea, so they can be avoided.
The problem is when I allow those prudent, well advised, smart actions and ideas to become a negative at my core. It is when I allow them to go from heightening my awareness to eating me up inside.
Sadly, this quote is true for me. Happiness isn’t automatic for me. What is automatic for me is to see the darker side of life.
I really don’t know why this is. I have spent years trying to change that pattern in my life. If this quote is true, then perhaps I am not alone and there are many people who tend toward the negative responses in life. I can’t say for sure about that.
What I do know is that I am capable of making the conscious decisions to change my patterns of response. I am capable of seeing things as positive, and seeing the possibilities of good, rather than the certainty of failure. I know, because I have done it in the past.
As I am writing this morning I realize that I have fallen into some negative patterns in my life. When I see an email from a manager I see the looming doom of unfulfilled promises that he or she is calling me out on. When my wife has a response to me, I see it as an affront rather than just a neutral or even positive exchange. I could go on rattling off the ways in which I do this.
Ironically, it is raining today. I sit here writing usually around dawn, and lately there have been some really beautiful sunrises. Today it is raining, and it would be easy to complain about having to walk in to work under an umbrella, or that my shoes will get wet. But the truth is that this rain is quite welcome. It will keep the grass green, the flowers in bloom and the lake levels rising. I am very allergic to the little, cottonwood pieces that float around, and this rain will help to knock them down to the ground and not into my eyes. Although it is raining, there is still a chorus of birds outside my window. It isn’t hard, I can see the positives in things if I but open my eyes to them.
Today I am reflecting on how I can start to change my pattern. I need to start making those conscious decisions to see the good on a daily basis again. Not because I am worried what someone else will think of my response, but rather because I need to worry about the effects on me. I don’t like feeling the way I do when I make miserable assessments in life, so I need to just stop doing it. I need to retain my ability to see what can go wrong, but embrace my ability to still celebrate the positives and use the knowledge of the risks to help prevent or avoid them.
In short, I need to just stop being such a miserable cuss so often.