I will never forget the day. I was in high school and my boyfriend (actually, maybe an ex-boyfriend by then) was standing in my basement. We were near a bookcase and he said to me, “You are bound and determined to be unhappy.”
Around the same time I walked into my room only to see a book that my mom had laid on my bed. It’s title? Happiness is a Choice.
A few years later, my mom presented a birthday gift to me. It was a poster collage of nature photos. She called it my happy poster. Her hope was that I would look at it and feel happy.
The problem was, I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. I spent many, many years depressed and this depression led to counseling, medication, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal fascination.
Oh how life has changed! I thought that there was no way out of my misery and I would have never believed that I would someday say that I was genuinely, truly, undeniably happy. But I can say those things now. Today. I am happy.
The thing is, life isn’t easy. Life isn’t perfect.
- I live in a third world country.
- I have five kids.
- I homeschool.
- The money always runs out before the month does.
- I have conflicts with my kids, my husband, friends, and family.
- I get stressed and overwhelmed.
- I made huge mistakes.
- We leave for America in six weeks and I have no idea what we will do for work or even how we will get from the airport to our new house.
But the thing is, I am happy. My happiness no longer depends on my circumstances. My happiness comes from my gratitude.
Over the past few months, I have been living with the phrase, “Just look!” I realized that if I only looked around me I would see how incredibly blessed I truly am. I was already on the happiness trail, but this one little phrase has propelled me farther than I ever thought possible.
I take walks in the morning and I see the glorious colors of the sunrise and I walk in the evening and see the glorious colors of the sunset.
I play outside with the kids and I see bugs in every imaginable color and size.
I see siblings loving each other and my heart bursts.
I see the beauty of nature and I am in awe.
I see the smile of my four year old’s face on her birthday and know that I am blessed.
I see a baby who will attempt anything to get near me and I am humbled at the chance to raise these little ones.
I see beautiful flowers and trees and I am reminded that nature calls to me everyday and says, “Happiness is all around you. Just look!”
A few weeks after embracing this “Just Look!” motto, I read these words. Ah…someone else gets it.
“I am a hunter of beauty and I move slow and I keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and I could be an expert on the life full, the beauty meat that lurks in every moment.
I hunger to taste life.
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
So yes. I am happy. So happy in fact, that I am making my mom a Happy Book for Mother’s Day. Pictures that make me happy. It’s my way of saying, “Thanks for teaching me what I wasn’t ready to understand.”
Life is beautiful. It’s not easy or perfect or always fun. But it is beautiful. You just have to look.