Striving for Happiness

As the trees lose the last of their fall vestiges, the holidays approach, we often begin to reminisce on the previous year. Thoughts of family gatherings are often intermingled with the reflections of losses and turmoil the previous year spawned. It is only appropriate that this happens in the winter season. Winter is the season that brings a dormancy, out of this dormancy will eventually grow new life in the springtime.

I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions or the whole concept of changing your entire life simply because we have changed the calendar, I have always felt that sometimes it was just a way of putting off much needed changes. Yet, here I am, looking forward to a better year.

Over the last few months, I have been experiencing a gradual shift in my thoughts and energies. I have realized that somewhere in the years, I have lost sight of myself, of who I am. This has prompted me to come to the realization that there is something to a resolution, but that we have it wrong. The New Year should be a time to stop and take a deep breath and relax into the changes we want to create in our lives, meditate on where we need improvements and take stock of what is going right.

Like the new hope that is spring, our changes generally happen gradually. Trees do not suddenly fill out with leaves, they slowly grow into the new season. Over the course of days and weeks they begin to fill out with leaves, flowers, fruits and nuts. Like trees on the spring equinox, the stroke of midnight on December 31st does not in itself bring a change to a person, it is a temporal landmark, an arbitrary milestone. Personal changes are not sudden like the flipping of a page, they are gradual and take planning. 

For me, I have so much that has gone wrong in the last year that I haven’t really looked at what has gone right for me. It has become a habit to look for the bad, but we all do it. Negativity is wired into us. 2022 brought more negative for me than I care to go into here, but suffice to say, I got into a tremendous rut of looking at the gloom and doom. In the process, I was blinded to the good around me. I created a negativity bias in my life. It would be easy to say that this last year was one of loss, but that is taking the pessimistic view. I choose to look at the gains I have made, the indisputable good that has come out of the mess I call my life.

I have plans for 2023 and beyond, but to get there, I have so many things I need to do. These will not happen just because I bought a new calendar, they will happen gradually, like the slow bloom of spring. The most important thing I plan on doing is breaking the habit of looking at all the negative, starting a habit of looking for the positive. 

As Max Ehrmann said “And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

In 2023 that is all I can do, strive to be happy. The reality is, that is all any of us can do, strive to be happy.

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