A few weeks ago I posted this picture on my social media accounts:
I believe in my heart that we create intention for our emotional experience. We choose how we see the world, and how we interpret experiences, and how we assimilate information into our life. It harkens back to the “glass half full/half empty” argument. It’s the same glass, but you choose your perspective.
However, last weekend I read an article on the myth of choosing happiness, which got me thinking. The premise was that people can’t “choose” happiness; that sometimes things are out of their control. The article noted that people have different outlooks on life and telling someone with a more pessimistic outlook to choose happiness is impossible for them because we as humans don’t have the ability to control our feelings, thoughts, beliefs.
Hmmm …. Was I wrong in how I was promoting choosing the mindset you want? Is my approach to life a farce?
And then today happened. And once again I feel settled that there is power in spreading love and choosing joy. But first, let me back up a bit.
Last week a fellow parent and friend of mine, Suzanne, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Within 24 hours of diagnosis she was undergoing invasive, painful treatments and will be hospitalized for several weeks during treatments.
Today I awoke to read this Facebook post from her:
“You know what’s cool about this whole cancer trip? Nothing, right? Nah, not true. And no, I’m not delirious…yet. Maybe next week. I’ve had the precious benefit and unique all encompassing joy to see how my life has mattered! How unbelievably amazing is that?
With all of the love and prayers and messages and thoughtful gifts, I’m surrounded by a tempest, a tangible torrent of life all the way from friends back in my childhood up to people I interact with every day! How many of us go through life wondering who we may have affected or if we’re affecting anyone at all?
Telling someone why they matter to you is huge! Not just to them, either! My hope is each of you reaching out to me realize you are equally worth the investment of love and time and friendship! Everything you have said to me, I pray and hope touches your own soul and reflects on your very own life, rushing out in waves to affect others even more deeply because you do have an effect on people!
So grab someone out of the blue and intentionally hug the heck out of them, love them out loud, embarrass them with your unabashed praise and compassion and genuine enjoyment out of having them in your life! If they think you’re crazy, blame it on me, they’ll completely understand!”
She is choosing joy. Yes, even while hospitalized and away from her family, experiencing intensive painful treatments, she is choosing joy. She is choosing love. Choosing connection and faith, vulnerability and trust.
She’s not giving cancer the power to take away her vitality, humor, smile, or love. She’s not focusing her energy on being angry or sad or confused or devastated (although I’m sure these emotions have popped up over the last week). But she is choosing her focus, setting her intention, and choosing something bigger.
This is mindset. Having known Suzanne for nine years now, I know this mindset is just who she is. I know she has experienced her share of pain, difficulty and challenges in life, but she doesn’t let that define her or her outlook.
Believe it or not, we all have this choice. Shifting the spotlight of our perspective can be difficult, but it is possible. When we start to recognize that our focus, however small or large, is in our control we can redirect our attention. We can shift that focus to something that is more adaptive to our life.
We will all have days and moments, or even months and years, of adversity in our lives. Times where we have trouble being positive. Times when we are pissy and angry and sad and lonely. However, if you’re able to settle into the moment and broaden your perspective, I wonder what else you will see. Is there also beauty and love and delight and curiosity and joy? If you look, I bet you will find it.
So for today, and tomorrow, and the rest of our lives, let’s follow Suzanne’s advice…. spread love like wildfire.
Be bold in life and love,
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.