happiness is a choice

“If you want to be happy, be.”  -Leo Tolstoy

I have this quote painted in my bedroom.  I believe that happiness is a choice, and it’s one that I try to make daily.

This week has been pretty up and down for me.  I’ve dealt with some stuff that left me bummed out.  But before I allowed myself to wallow too deep into self pity, I had a moment of total clarity.  Life is too short to choose anything other than happiness.

I have fresh flowers on my dining room table.  I’m wearing a dress that I love.  I took the time to do my hair and makeup this morning.  I did an anonymous act of kindness last night.  I got a compliment from a stranger earlier.  I paid three more forward.  I woke up early and enjoyed an hour on my front steps, reading my book, enjoying the cool morning air and this song.  I ran into friendly faces all over campus today.  My nails are painted.  I’m burning my favorite candle.

I have every reason to be happy.  When I am so myopic that I can only see the few negative things affecting me, I miss out on recognizing the 100 other wonderful things that happen to me on a daily basis.  So today, and moving forward, I’m choosing happiness.  I hope you’ll choose it with me.

PS- This song feels like my day.  To be clear, I’m not a large black man singing about the United Streets of America.  I am, however, having a good day!

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2(7) dresses

As I peruse Facebook, amid the “so humbled and honored” posts where friends brag about their new jobs and the “look at this amazing place I went to that you’ll never see” travel posts that worsen my wanderlust, I see them: the engagement and wedding posts.  I am officially at that age.

This past weekend I had my second experience as a bridesmaid.  The first time was last December, when I was a bridesmaid in my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding.  This time, I was a bridesmaid for my friend (and mentor) Jordan.

Here’s the thing–I absolutely LOVE love.  It’s evident to those who know me.  I cried when Jordan and Evan got engaged; I cried when they rehearsed their walk down the aisle; I cried when Evan arrived to the B&B and Jordan had to hide so he wouldn’t see her…the list goes on.  Seeing two people so in love and so incandescently happy makes my heart overflow with joy.

However, I was reminded as the DJ ordered all of us fun, single girls off the dance floor and called on the “couples in the room” that I am not in love.  Ugh.

I’m perfectly happy being single most of the time, except in moments like that.  Moments where I feel utterly alienated because I lack a better half.  On one hand, I feel comforted by the other girls sitting around me, forced off the dance floor with me in their singleness.  On the other hand, I feel sad knowing that they’re probably just as hyperaware of their loneliness in that moment as I am.

At this point, I have accepted the fact that I will quite possibly wear 27 dresses before I get to wear that one special dress.  I’ve got two down, 25 to go.  However, I cling to the hope that my James Marsden character will come in the middle of all the bridesmaid-ing and sweep me off my feet (but hopefully not publicly humiliate me in journalistic pursuits).

Don’t get me wrong; I recognize the pros of being unattached.  When I graduate in May, I have no strings tying me down.  I can go on a spontaneous trip at any moment without telling anyone first.  I can flirt with any random (single) guy, ever.  But it’s hard to get excited about these things when you’re sipping sweet tea out of a mason jar, watching beaming couples slow dance under sparkly lights.

A boy named Michael Jones told me in the fifth grade something that I’ve never forgotten.  He said, “You are the most intimidating girl at our school.  That’s why boys don’t like to talk to you.”  Not much has changed.  I still have what I’m told can be a very intimidating personality.  Everyone says “it” happens when you aren’t looking, but let’s be honest: everyone is looking.  We are designed to love and be loved.  While I am by no means actively scouting a better half, I’m am hoping that one of these days, the right boy will talk to me.  And when he does, I’ll have a heck of a lot of bridesmaids ready.

PS- Christian Mingle, you can stop emailing me now.  I’m nowhere near rock bottom.

i’ve never met a stranger

sonder

In the last year or so, I have been made aware that something I thought was completely normal is actually not normal at all.

I talk to strangers everywhere I go.

Let’s take the last few days, for example.  Off the top of my head, I can think of quite a few people I’ve met.  There was James, who was walking a cute Labradoodle named Sterling just 20 minutes ago outside my house.  There was Eric, the man in Starbucks who I wound up talking to for almost an hour.  There was Victoria, the girl waiting in line with her precious baby Ivy at that same Starbucks.  There were countless strangers in between.

The thing is, I strike up these conversations instinctually.  I don’t actively decide that I want to talk to strangers around me, I just talk.  And you know what?  99 times out of 100, the person is pleasantly surprised and happy to talk to me.  (That 1 person is usually grumpy or rude but you know what?  I like to think maybe I could have brightened their mood just a little bit.)

It makes me sad when friends in New York tell me that you don’t speak–or even make eye contact–with people around you.  Ever.  It makes me question whether I could ever be happy living in a place like that (and I’ve always wanted to live in a big city).

I think that a lot of the beauty in life is in meeting people and not just making small talk but actually getting to know them.  That guy James?  His family owns 3 Labradoodles and he’s graduating from law school this year.  Eric from Starbucks?  He’s a dermatologist who’s lived all over the US including California and Massachusetts, and served in the Navy for 9 years.  He loves Pandora and listens to it just about every day at work.  Victoria told her now-husband just two weeks into dating him that if they ever had a daughter, they could name her Ivy.  Four months ago, she was born.

As you can see, I’m not one to just talk about the weather.  I want to know people.  I want as many people as possible to know that they are important, interesting, and worthwhile.  

This video is one of my favorites because it puts into words what matters so much to me.  Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.  This understanding is part of what fuels the way that I interact with people and see the world.  Perhaps I won’t ever see  a person again– I’m just meant to be a random conversation in a grocery store line on a Tuesday afternoon.  I’m an uncredited extra in the movie of their life.  I personally need this dose of humility–to be reminded that the world isn’t revolving around me all the time (or even any of the time).  Take a look for yourself and see if it gives you the same perspective it gave me.