Choosing to be Happy
I embrace the austere clarity and hope that is January. I long ago gave up impossible-to-achieve, all-or-nothing New Year’s resolutions (Stop picking cuticles! Ashtanga every day! No meat! and my annual favorite: Stop procrastinating!) in favor of gentler incremental changes working towards unmasking my true self and living authentically. My disciplined, achievement-oriented self finds it impossible to refrain from setting goals. Indeed, goals and dreams are valuable for staying focused on what matters to you and not getting side-tracked by what matters to someone else. As I reflected on last year’s goals and my genuine progress towards realizing them, I deliberated on where to focus my heart this year. Last year’s list still resonates – how shall I deepen it? After trying on several goals, I settled on one guiding intention for my year: choose laughter.
At first, it was “laugh more.” But this seemed vague and not really representative of my intention, and so I added the word “choose.” To choose to laugh means to pause before reacting in order to decide to respond with thought and purpose. It is a habit for me to complain, to worry, to be tired, to feel overwhelmed and anxious. The mind can choose to be happy. Can I break out of my old patterns and choose to laugh and be happy?
When heavy snow arrives, preventing my obligatory on-site presence in the office, can I choose to be grateful for the day at home with my family instead of worrying that I “should” be in the office? My children are thrilled with the surprise of nature and laugh joyfully. How can I learn from them?
When a colleague shows up at my office door, can I choose to smile at them welcomingly instead of scowling at them with how busy I am?
When it’s time to undecorate from Christmas, can I choose to reflect on what a warm and relaxing holiday it was instead of feeling burdened by the work of cleaning up and depressed about the work of returning to work?
When several newbie yoga students show up to class in January, as part of their new year’s resolutions, can I make them feel comfortable instead of worrying about whether I can modify my class properly for a larger group?
When my children suggest an activity, can I say “Yes!” instead of “Not now, I need to do the laundry.”
My inclination toward laughter and delight has been suppressed all my life. By a mother who hovered and worried, pegging me as sensitive and shy. By a father who judged and withheld love and praise in favor of intellect and duty. Resulting in an anxious perfectionist who chose solitary achievement over social laughter.
Choosing laughter means changing habitual behavior that no longer serves me. Choosing to embrace what is and not wishing for it to be different. Choosing a lighter response over a darker heavier, more judgmental emotion. Choosing to be social. After all, you need other people to really laugh out loud.
My family has rallied behind this “resolution” with great zeal. We’ve decided to have family joke night at our family dinner on Sundays where each person tells a joke. I love this because I realize that women historically have not been encouraged to be joke-tellers resulting in the stereotype of the woman who can’t remember the punchline or tell a joke well. I will pick one joke a week that makes me laugh out loud (no judgment!) and share it with my family (and tweet it that evening).
When my daughter cracks up uncontrollably, she closes her eyes and is overcome with the funniness. She’s been sharing this side of herself more and nothing makes me happier than seeing her laugh. Perhaps if I laugh more, she will too.