I have a piece of scrap paper posted to my wall. On it are several ideals I hold dear. At the end of the list are the words that now guide me every day. “I believe I can always find my smile.” Something about knowing this gives me permission to frown when I need to. My bad moods come and go but my default emotion is joy.
I was not always able to find my smile. My mouth pinched with tension for the entire eight months of my toddler’s chemotherapy. My eyes were flat and dead for two years after my mother died of lung cancer. She died a month after my son was declared in remission. I almost lost my relationship with my mate when, two years after Mom’s death, I still lived each day indifferent to his affections. I had learned to suppress my fear in order to survive, and I didn’t know how to get rid of the pain after the danger had passed.
During that time I discovered that I have the ability to adapt quickly to stressful circumstances. But afterwards I found it harder to adapt to happiness. Trauma forced me to change, but I had to choose to find happiness.
So three years after my son’s diagnosis I have finally chosen to believe that I can feel happy every day. If I can endure my baby cut in half, radiated, and poisoned; watch my mother die; see my entire world ripped from my grasp; and still find my smile; I can survive anything.
Years ago I lived in a small town named Sequim. It was in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Surrounded by rainforest where moss hung from the trees, this small community experienced desert-like rainfall. The daytime skies were often cloudy, but by afternoon the cloud-cover would break and the sun would peek through and the locals would say “it’s another sunny day in Sequim.”
I’ve decided to resign myself to happiness. I may feel bad right now, but wait ten minutes, my son will say something completely off the wall and I’ll start to giggle. And next thing you know it’ll be another happy day at the Acheson house.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.