Running yesterday, I made eye contact with a person on the sidewalk.
You look happy to be running on this beautiful day, she said.
And I realized, I had been smiling. Not at her, and certainly not at running, but just in general, as I pounded the pavement in her direction. I nodded and agreed as I passed her by, well, it IS a beautiful day!
The rest of the run, I couldn’t stop myself from grinning, like a little girl with a secret. Like a child fresh from Sunday School, singing I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy…down in my heart. (Where?) Down in my heart!
Earlier in the day, yesterday, Lila fell from a jungle gym. It knocked the wind out of her and she cried and hugged her stomach. No other bumps or blood or bruises, just a case of mild embarrassment and the wind-sucking moment. I went to comfort her. Vinnie picked up her eight year-old body, like she was a toddler. He held her, until she stopped crying and had turned to whining. When we left, ten minutes later, she was still scowling at the world with a skinny arm wrapped across her waist.
Lila, I said, I know that was rough, but you’re okay. Now, this attitude, this is a choice you’re making. How do you want the rest of your day to be? Because you can choose to be happy.
Yesterday morning, this morning, every morning my choice is happiness.
Given any other option – worry, panic, angst, fear, disappointment, discouragement – I’ll take optimism. I’ll choose hope.
Because, it’s easier to remain calm – when a child is screaming and holding a bloody knee…when an unexpected bill arrives…when the wind is knocked from your gut…when the phone call comes that your husband lost his job and you’re looking at a big unwritten future that’s cluttered with question marks – it’s easier to remain calm, if you’re not fearing the worst, but are hopeful for the best.
After the park and a portrait session yesterday, we (as a whole family) spent the afternoon together, something that we’ve grown accustomed to over the summer, something I’m not quite willing to let go of, yet. I asked Vinnie, as we drove homeward, what if you just don’t get a regular job? What would happen? Maybe Thrive will warrant more attention in the coming months? Maybe you can just work part time somewhere in the meantime?
What I didn’t feel, in talking about our future, what I don’t feel, is fear.
Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s faith, maybe it’s a combination of life experience and trust in myself, and God and those I’ve chosen to bring into my inner circle – but I don’t feel naive in this sense of optimism. I feel resolute. We’ve got this – there are so many hands here, willing and able to help. There so many avenues we can explore, as a couple, as a family. There is a whole wide world that has just been opened to us. We’re standing in the door frame to whatever is coming next, and it’s not frightening, it’s exciting.
Life is a series of circumstances and obstacles, it’s a continuum of highs and lows, of things that will go right and things that will go wrong. It’s understanding that there are are things that I can control, and others that I cannot, and I’m learning along the way, that remaining positive is simply the nicest, happiest, way to overcome any of it.
That’s not saying that I don’t have stressful moments, when I’m running on empty and I’m angry and I’m snapping at Vinnie over why on earth I can’t seem to find my other shoe when I’m running late for an appointment. Or, that I don’t sometimes let the annoyance of an obstinate GPS that insists on trying to turn me down one-way streets in Boston, reduce me to tears and frantic phone calls to Vinnie about how our van hates me (and how I hate driving in the city.)
But, down in my core, there is joy, and in my heart, there is peace. And it’s from the knowledge that there’s nothing I can tie that joy down to in this whole wide world, better than my own heart.
Anything circumstantial can be moved. Jobs can be lost. Businesses can fail. Even family or friendships can let you down. You have to tie your hope and your happiness to something deep within yourself. From there, it bubbles up and out of your spirit, sometimes in moments you’re unaware – like a dumb grin while you’re out running, that maybe puts a smile on a stranger’s face, too.
Turns out, happiness is a choice, but sharing it is not.
And that’s kind of a beautiful thing.