Friday, October 28, 2005

Happiness is a Choice

When I was younger, everything made me angry. Whatever a person or institution did was a personal attack on me. I was always blaming the world for my crappy life, and decided that I was destined to be miserable, that God didn't like me.

As I got older, I continued this path to unhappiness. I indulged in self-destructive behavior to forget about the mean, cruel world that was ruining my life, but it never worked. As a teenager, this behavior turned into full-blown addiction, which gave me another reason to be angry.

In my early twenties, I was fed up with being unhappy. On the outside, I appeared to have everything one would need to be content: good job, my own place, a car, and a fiancee. But on the inside, I thought I was the most miserable human being on the face of the earth, and that if you had my problems, you wouldn't do any better.

One day, I stumbled upon a group of people who understood my pain. Even though they had been through many of the same things I had, they were happy. They laughed about the stupid things they had done and weren't ashamed of where they had come from. What a bunch of loonies these people were! Yet even though I didn't think it was possible for me, I was intrigued.

These people taught me that my problem was not the world itself, but the way I reacted to it. I was completely self-centered and cared about nothing except getting my own way. I expected the world to behave exactly the way I wanted it to, and became angry when it didn't meet my excessive demands and frivolous expectations.

I also learned that happiness is a choice. By letting the unfair actions of certain people and institutions get to me, I was essentially giving away my right to be happy by allowing outside influences to shift my focus from all the positive in my life to the negative. Being angry at someone didn't change anything about what happened. It only interfered with my ability to be happy.

While I can't say I'm completely free from anger today, I don't allow it to get to me the way I used to. The first thing I do when I get angry is write down what I am feeling or talk it over with someone else. Then, I pray for that person's happiness and wish them a good life, even though I don't always believe that in the beginning. If it's a really bad resentment, it can take me a couple of weeks to get to this point.

While I may not like doing these things, the payoff is awesome. My life today is radically different. I feel more at ease not only with the world but with myself as well.

No comments: