I’m speaking tonight at my Toastmasters group, and my topic is “Authentic Happiness.” Boy do I need that topic today.
I just got home from dropping off my 19-year-old son, Christopher, for a two-year mission to Taiwan. I will only get to talk to him four times in the next two years – on each Christmas and Mother’s Day. And this is the son who would come in at the end of a night out with friends, give me a big hug, and sit on my bed and talk for hours. Too often, I would be so tired that I found myself wondering, “When will he be done?” Today, of course, I realize how foolish I was to begrudge those moments together.
Can I feel happy this afternoon? I descend into tears as my mind keeps going back to earlier this afternoon, watching him, a man of 6’2”, standing by the big glass entry doors of the huge complex of buildings, hesitating, waiting for instructions and looking like a lost little boy. I wanted to jump out of the car and go help him find his way. I was flooded with memories from his youth, and the scrawny, tender-hearted little tow-headed boy he was, and I remember his big smothering hugs and his happy giggles.
My heart was heavy as we drove away, and the thought that I won’t see his face or feel his arms around me for two whole years brought tears to my eyes.
Dr. Martin Seligman is the founder of a new branch of psychology called “Positive Psychology.” He says that it is possible to be happy, regardless of one’s circumstances. So that means that I can be happy today.
Well, for one, I allowed myself to feel the emotions. I came home and wept, and as each tender thought came, I wept anew. I believe those tears are cleansing, and they clear the soul so there is room for joy to replace the sorrow.
Then, I decided to think of all the good things about this situation. I have a son! I remember praying to have children, and he is an answer to those prayers. He is making a good choice. He could be living a very different life, but he has chosen to serve others for two years. That alone is a great reason to rejoice!
I could list several other reasons I have to be happy, but they really all boil down to one thing – my attitude. My perspective. I can choose what thoughts I think – and if I choose well, those thoughts will create happiness.
I can be happy today. Even though I know at any moment I may once again be overcome with tears, it’s okay. They will pass, and my heart will be lighter. And as much as possible, today I choose to focus on the good in my life.
Christopher, I’ll miss you! But I’m determined to make the best of these two years – and to be happy while I do so!