I love my friends. They often provide a good laugh, listen to my woes, and the best ones occasionally give me a much needed reality check. This was the case about twelve years ago. I was in a horribly destructive marriage, where hurled insults and accusations constituted a civil conversation. I was talking to my best friend about my husband, when she cut me off mid-sentence. She said, “Marina, he isn’t responsible for your happiness. You are.” She wasn’t trying to hurt me. She was trying to help. She wanted to see me happy. I realized she was right. I had choices. I chose to stay in the relationship. I chose to take my husband’s abuse. I let his words mold my sense of self worth. I chose my situation, thus my misery. Suddenly, I understood. If I wanted to be happy I had two choices; change or get over it. Though it was difficult, I did both and gained a new perspective on life.
Am I happy all the time? Of course not, but I still believe that I am responsible for my own happiness. It’s not always easy. I don’t live in a vacuum. People, events, and circumstances still affect my everyday life. Sometimes they bring joy, and other times grief, but, I decide the amount of control they exert over my happiness. Awareness is a key factor. Life isn’t static, and my definition of happiness changes as my goals shift. It is important for me to regularly evaluate what gives me joy and satisfaction. It reminds me to appreciate small things that I often take for granted.
I also inventory what makes me unhappy and why. This process helps clarify my feelings, uncover underlying problems, and put things into perspective. Trivial things are almost always immediately apparent. Last week I had an argument with my son about dirty dishes. As I ranted, he asked, “Why are you so upset?” I realize now how I let something silly make me unhappy. Frequently I contribute to my own unhappiness through lack of communication. I forget that people aren’t mind readers and won’t always know how I feel, unless I clearly express myself. Sometimes I accept unhappiness for the greater good. When my mother died, I learned the importance of grief in the healing process. My youngest son has Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of autism. It is challenging, and some days seem like a never-ending struggle. Yet, he brings immeasurable love and happiness to my life. Parenting in general has unhappy moments, but it is well worth it. Finally, I accept that I can’t change other people or all situations. I can only control my perceptions and actions.
I’m still a work in progress, but I believe in myself. I have the tools to make myself happy. I believe it takes work but is worth it. It is my responsibility; not my family, friends or anyone else. It is mine, and I own it.
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