I realized something important about myself about three years ago, and it has become a kind of talisman that I touch when I need a reminder to trust myself. It guides me when I’m lost in the woods about a decision. It nudges me on when I’m afraid to take a risk. And it calms me down when I’m in an anxiety spiral, which happens a lot more often than you might think.
The realization is this — I can always be miserable, and I can always be happy.
Let me explain.
I pulled up to my house last night after work. My house. The thing I didn’t plan for, save for, or strategize how to get. This house truly fell into our laps. It is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined, and it contains three super precious people inside of it.
I am so happy in this house.
But I could have been happy in another house, too. Or in an apartment, or in the condo we shared for the last five years.
I am happy because I am there. And joy is a companion I choose to keep in my shotgun position — my ride or die.
That being said, likewise, I can always be miserable.
I could pull up to the house and think about the gophers, or that the grass is currently dying in the backyard, or that there’s a weird smell in one of the bathrooms, or the brown widow egg sacs I just found all over the garage, or that the cat has literally been peeing on V’s bed. I can miss the miracle of the house, and just see what’s wrong. (In fact, oftentimes, I’m really good at that.)
I can always be miserable.
But more and more, the older I get, my compass points toward happy. It’s my default. Even if I get out of line, even if I complain for two weeks straight, and yes, even if my brother dies, eventually, somehow, that compass makes it back on track. It may take a long time. Some sadnesses may occur from which I may never recover.
But I will find joy again, because that’s who I am, and that’s what I choose to look for.
I want to be excited about things. I want to geek out on a new show, on a book I love, on plans a few weeks from now, hell — I’m down to be stoked on a new lululemon color.
I like to be excited best of all.
And so even if I misstep, even if tragedy strikes, even if I have a bad day (or week…or year), even if I am faced with two choices and I choose the “wrong” one, I will make it back to joy. Because it’s what I look for. It’s my favorite.
I can always be happy.
What about you?
(If your compass isn’t pointed toward joy [and if it isn’t, you’ll know it], start finding a way to place it there. For me, a real game changer has been a gratitude text group I have with my three best friends. Every night, the last thing we do before bed is text each other the three [or more] things we were grateful for that day. I used to be allergic to the word “gratitude” so I just called it “the magic of the day.” So if you’re like me and get weird about words like “gratitude,” just call it whatever the hell you want. We started this almost three years ago and meant to do it for just a few months, but we’ve never given it up because it keeps us connected and it also measurably affects our outlook on life. My friend E even sent her gratitude text on the day her mother died, and I sent mine the day Tim died. Because even on those days, we still had something, and we had each other. Try it — could be a good quarantine activity with the friends you don’t get to see so often, and it’ll definitely shift your compass to point toward joy, despite whatever else may be going wrong in your life.)