Sunday, December 15, 2013

Happiness is a Choice

When I was in high school, I was probably one of the most stressed-out, pessimistic people around. I would come home from cross country practice and hardly make it through the door of my home before I began venting to my mom.

“I have a Chemistry II assignment that might just be the death of me. As if that’s not bad enough, I also have a HUGE Physics exam tomorrow and I have no idea what we are even doing in that class. And don’t even get me started on my AP English paper on “Jane Eyre!" You might as well just lock me up in my room for a week.”

(I wasn’t dramatic or anything…)

My mom would stand their patiently, until I was finished with my rant and then ask, “Well, did anything good happen today?!”

Back then, I am sure I just stomped off and mumbled “nobody understands me” under my breath. However, looking back at my past attitude on life, I can’t help but imagine how different it could have been. This past year, I have developed a broader outlook on life—one that extends beyond the realms of a college classroom. I understand that my grades and activities are still important, but I have also started realizing how much our attitude molds the outcomes within our lives. Sure, I can sit and complain about my workload or a frustrating situation. It might lift some weight off my shoulders for the moment, but what happens after I stop venting? Am I going to feel any better?

Life throws all kinds of challenging curve balls our direction. That is just a part of life. However, how you react to those situations is a choice. You can choose to feel angry, jealous, frustrated, and hurt by those hard times you encounter…but have you ever considered how much more satisfying your life would be if you chose happiness? I realize that simply choosing happiness is not so easy. However, the more you begin to practice choosing a positive outlook, the more it becomes an instinctive reaction. 

Martha Washington once said, 

“I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.”

You may not always be able to change your circumstances, but you can change your disposition—even if that means putting a smile on when you’d rather cry. The more you tell yourself to be happy, the more you will convince yourself that it is so.

Next time life tests you, you have a choice: What are you going to choose?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Love is a Verb

Like most families, my family often exchanges memories or stories when we get together. Over Thanksgiving, my grandma was thinking back to when my great-grandparents were still around and their house needed re-shingling. Low-and-behold, my 80-year old grandfather was up on that roof, working day in to day out. (Apparently, men were even more stubborn back then than they are today.) After a long day of work, my great-grandfather’s knees were in a considerable amount of pain, as you can imagine for a man his age. That evening, my grandma knelt at his side and rubbed his knees with such love and devotion. As my grandma was telling this story, I jokingly blurted out “Heck if I ever rub some man’s knees!!” With a grin, she replied, “When you find the right one, you will.”

After hearing of this story, I got to thinking a little more about the concept of love—in all forms of relationships, really. At times, I think that love has lost its meaning. Have you ever noticed how easily and frequently we drop the L-bomb each day? We use the word to describe how much we enjoy foods. We use it to describe a movie we recently saw at the theater. We use it express emotion toward a significant other. We use it to tell our friends how much we care about them. 

We use it so freely that it makes me wonder how we are supposed to really know what love is. In fact, sometimes I even wonder what the big deal about love is.  

Hey, if we use the word so loosely, how can it really be that special?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I can really view love is as a verb. I adore the song by John Mayer, “Love is a Verb.” The lyrics are simple, yet so profound.

I don’t want to be told that someone loves me. Words are great and all, but how many times can you name where someone has broken their word to you? No. I want to be shown that someone cares through how I am treated. And I want to do the same. One of my favorite quotes of all times comes from the book, The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks: 

“You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it’s always their actions you should judge them by. It’s actions, not words, that matter.”

It’s in those times where actions do not align with words that we should be cautious. However, at the same time, imagine how refreshing it will feel when they do align. Our actions don’t have to be of grandeur. They don’t have to be documented for all of the world to see (or our Facebook newsfeed). They need only be sincere. 

Remember that the next time you drop the L-word. Can you back-up what you say with what you do?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Actions and Words

Toes tapping. Arms crossed. Sighs of frustration. Thoughts of “could this lady possibly take any longer?” crossing my mind. 

As terribly impatient and inconsiderate as it sounds, that was exactly my demeanor as I stood in a long line at Walmart just a few days ago. What I had anticipated being a quick, 5-minute stop was quickly turning into a half-hour engagement. As I crept closer to the front of the line, the shopper in front of me was clearly more frustrated than myself. Just as the person picked up their plastic grocery sack, the bag ripped and a couple of his items fell to the ground. In response the person, snapped at the small cashier saying, “Wow! You really need to invest in nicer bags here! This is ridiculous!”

While I could understand the person’s frustrations, my mood quickly changed as I saw the defeated look come across the cashier’s face. As she began ringing up my items, I decided, then and there, to snap out of my bad attitude. Most times, I am in a hurry to get out of there and carry on with the rest of my day. However, as she rung up my items, I decided to make small talk with her. After I commented about how surprisingly busy it was in there, she told me that it been like that all week. I also learned that she would be working every day this week, including Thanksgiving and every cashier’s nightmare: Black Friday. She also mentioned that Black Friday would be her last day working there before starting her new job. As I thanked her before leaving, I could tell that simply taking the time to listen to her had helped brighten her day. 

Have you ever considered how much power both your actions and words hold? 

It’s easy to breeze through life, thinking little about the people around us. We may say things without realizing how they affect the person they are directed toward. We may also disregard how our body language and actions make those around us feel. But what if we were a little more conscientious of those things? 

We may not always be able to change the world with our actions, but consider just one life you can touch. We don’t know the kinds of situations that people are currently facing within their own lives. They might be perfectly happy each day, but chances are that there is something in their life they are struggling with. Do you really want to add to their distress by standing in a busy checkout line, tapping your toes and sighing with impatience?

With Thanksgiving and the holidays just around the corner, I encourage you to take a little extra time to consider your actions and words. You don’t necessarily have to do anything extraordinary, but perhaps think a little more before you do. Maybe even be someone’s ray of sunshine in their otherwise cloudy day.