Since I have committed to the first post of the month, I am usually tasked with writing our annual New Year’s thoughts. It’s both an honor, and a burden to be the one to set the tone and offer some words of insight and/or wisdom for the beginning of a new year. And, since I’ve also been called the “cheerleader,” of our HerSavvy group, I feel obliged to write something positive, optimistic, encouraging. And honestly, it’s not hard for me to do just that. I’m fairly confident that I am genetically predisposed to being an eternal optimist, able to overlook the harsh truths in front of me and hone in on whatever kernel of happiness I can find.
My mom was the same way and often took some ribbing from my family about what my dad called her “Pollyanna,” view of the world. She characterized it differently. She subscribed to the old adage (often incorrectly attributed to Abraham Lincoln), “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” As I’ve gotten older I find that I, too, live by this pretty basic ideology. In fact, today I ran into someone I haven’t seen in several months and she remarked that I looked fabulous and asked what’s my secret. I automatically replied, “Pilates and a happy life.” And it honestly wasn’t just something I say to make conversation or to have a pithy reply. I really do believe that my life is a happy one because I choose to find the positives in most situations. Of course, I’ve had my share of sadness, loss, anger, frustration and pain. I do feel the range of human emotions. But this choice to find happiness is something I consciously practice.
This past year, choosing happiness has been a challenge. The world as I knew it changed dramatically, my country changed in ways that frighten me and I worry about the future for myself, for my children and for the planet. Some days I feel depressed and overwhelmed by what I read and hear in the news. I’ve supported a sibling through a very difficult and painful life change that has left me grieving for my parents and wishing they were here to help me meet this challenge. And along with all of this is the normal worries of middle adult life.
But buried in all the mess of 2018, I also found some wonderful reasons to be happy. I had a milestone birthday and I’m in the best physical and emotional shape of my life. My husband and I are enjoying each other and our empty nest. My adult children, though continuing to find their way, are each enjoying professional success and are “off the payroll.” I’ve made some amazing new friends and strengthened some old relationships. I’ve also moved on from some toxic relationships and learned to set some more effective boundaries. I’ve challenged my mind and my body to continue growing and learning, and I feel more comfortable with my own spirituality.
This practice of seeking out and choosing happiness isn’t anything magical. I may find it a more natural behavior than someone else. But anyone can train herself to do it. Some people might begin with just feeling grateful for whatever they can. Gratitude goes a long way towards being happy. Another approach is to work towards looking at a situation differently. There is almost always another angle that is more positive than negative. Even in trying times, there is growth. In loss there can be appreciation for what one had. Out of anger can come understanding.
As I begin this new year, I plan to continue choosing happiness. I understand now that for my mom it was also a choice. She was not an unwitting Pollyanna, smiling mindlessly through life. She set her course for happiness and navigated through the difficulties by keeping her eye on that prize. I miss her sunny disposition and her calm patient way of guiding me towards happiness. But I am proud to carry on in her stead and to welcome the future with open arms and a smile. Happy New Year, everyone, enjoy this marvelous, flawed, beautiful, savvy world!
About Barbara Dab
Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood. Check it out at www.nashvillepilatescompany.com. She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors. Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com. If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!