Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen. – Mark Twain
Bad things come in threes.
I’m usually not superstitious, but after the events of the past year I’m beginning to believe this particular piece of folklore to be true.
One year ago Mary Beth and I were returning from a Saturday morning run when we received the telephone call her father had unexpectedly died. He suffered a fatal heart attack nobody saw coming. In March, my wife received the diagnosis of the brain malformation which would require surgery later in May. We didn’t see that one coming as well. April brought the news of my mother’s death. She had been ill for some time and although her death was not a surprise, it hurt nonetheless. I guess I didn’t see the pain her death caused coming either.
Bad things did came in threes for us.
This past year has been a year for pain and loss, and it’s been a year for growth and awareness, too. Often it’s the more significant occurrences in our life that provide a better context for what’s truly important compared to what we sometimes think is important.
I’m learning the new normal for me is simplicity and gratitude. Less can be more when we turn down the noise to hear what our hearts are telling us do. My heart is telling me to love everybody close to me as if it were their last day; to move confidently in the direction of my dreams before it gets too much later and to keep learning to be happier with the person I’m becoming.
The following lessons learned over the past year, as well as the past 46, give me comfort and hope that I’m on my way to finding the peace and happiness I deserve:
- Acknowledge the reality.
I learned several years ago we cannot change or heal what we do not acknowledge. If there is something in our present situation that is uncomfortable or painful, it must be acknowledged before the changing process can begin. The pink elephant in the room will continue to sit there; occupying valuable real estate until the day it is recognized and then asked to leave.
An unfulfilling marriage, frustrating career or undesirable state of health will continue to fester and ooze disappointment until the pain becomes too great to bear. The day we acknowledge our marriage lacks the passion we crave, or our job is not aligned with our life’s passion or we don’t recognize ourselves in the mirror because of the additional pounds, is the day we will begin to change our reality.
- Believe in the truth, ignore the lie.
The lie tells us we are not enough and we are not entitled to have God’s love. The truth, on the other hand, is we do have God’s love and mercy without any conditions or terms tied to it. We are free to receive His grace because it’s a gift he created especially for us.
- Somewhere in the grey.
With every difficulty or set back that is impeding on our happiness, the real issue doesn’t exist merely in the black; nor does the only answer appear in the white. Rather, our lives are meant to be lived somewhere in between; somewhere in the grey – and in the grey is where we can find many of the answers to our problems as well as some of the keys to our happiness.
- Respect life, our guest.
There are some days when mothers don’t return home and fathers leave without giving us the chance to say good-bye. And there are some days when doctors deliver horrible news to an anxious family. And every day the sun sets on a soul who witnessed its rise only hours earlier.
Life, our guest, needs to be treated with respect and honor. Life, our guest, comes and goes as it pleases. We can make all the preparation we want, but Life follows its own schedule.
- Take one step more.
It’s usually the extra push at the end that makes all the difference in getting what we what or settling for what we think we deserve. It is doing the one extra thing that no else is doing, or is unwilling to do, that creates the separation necessary to get to where we want to go.
At the end of the day, a sense of peace, happiness and worthiness fills our spirit and nourishes our souls with a warmth that covers us from head to toe when we have taken the one step more.
“I have done it,” we think. “And no matter what happens next, no one can take this feeling from me right now. I took one step more; one step more after feeling discouraged; one step more after hope seemed lost and I did it. I did it.”
- Measure in love.
Paychecks, weight scales, and the accessories on our cars or on ourselves can be measurements used to determine value. The more important unit of measure, however, is love.
Measure the number of times you asked for love and it was given. Measure the incredible feeling of having your partner sleep beside you every night. Measure the worth of the unconditional love our parents can provide, and even though they may gone, their love still remains.
Measure day and months with a calendar, but measure your life in love.
- Begin today, right now.
There is no better time to live your heart’s passion than right now. When the nudge you feel is beginning to pull you in the direction of your life’s purpose and your inner wisdom is telling you to go; then go.
Resist the temptation to feel regret for not beginning earlier. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. So, live in the present; in the here and now and begin today, right now.
- Ask for what you want.
When you make the decision to ask for what you want and then focus on this request, you are telling the world how much you want to achieve it in your life. Thoughts do become things.
When we push down our dreams they can get lost with the other things that seldom see the light of day. Bring your dreams back to the surface, say the words, and believe in your worth to receive whatever you request.
Soon, you will begin to see changes, perhaps small at first, but changes that will lead to you getting more of what you ask for and more of what you want; and more of what you deserve.
- Use second chances wisely.
A second choice is a gift. Often the mistakes we make have lasting consequences. When we are granted a second chance not only do we have a chance for redemption, but we also have the opportunity to take a different action or to say a different word that will result in a different outcome – perhaps a happier and more positive outcome.
When a second chance is requested, and granted, use it wisely. It may never come again.
- Open the floodgates.
When we open the floodgates and refuse to allow fear to trump our faith, we are better able to surrender our problems and receive His help. When we do, we will be soaked in feelings of hope, happiness and purpose. The force behind the grace that pours out from the opened floodgates allows us to we move from merely doing and into being who we are meant to be.
- What we pay attention to grows.
Even though we may not be responsible for everything that happens to us, we are responsible for how we choose to react to what happens to us. The expression like attracts like is especially true when it comes to positive and negative emotions.
If we chose to remain positive, then positive results are likely to occur. Alternatively, if we decide to be negative and critical, we can expect more negative circumstances to occur. In the months leading up to Mary Beth’s surgery, we focused on a positive outcome and a long life filled with happiness. My wife is recovering to plan, getting stronger each day and is once again thinking about the goodness in her life.
- And, when you feel like giving up.
The day you quit is the day before you will find whatever it is you are looking for in your life.
The enemy of our soul whispers into our ear when he sees us getting close. The enemy tells us we do not deserve to receive what our hearts’ desire.
Take the enemy’s power away and replace it with a new truth that states there is a plan, His plan, and it’s not matter of if we will achieve it, but only when.
- Scale your problems.
How important is it, really, when I don’t roll-up the tube of toothpaste to maximize its contents (this drives Mary Beth nuts)? Or how important is it, really, when my wife forgets to give me the sales receipts from her purse so I can make the entries into the checkbook (this drives me nuts)?
On my last day, I don’t think I will be lamenting about an unbalanced checkbook. Instead, my hope is I will be taking an inventory of my life to determine if I took care of what truly needed my attention and did I properly ignore the trivial and unimportant so these things did not get in the way of my happiness or the happiness of others.
- Choose love.
When confronted with a choice between forgiveness and resentment; choose forgiveness. When faced with a chance to give love or hold love back; give love. When given the opportunity to reach out and connect or shut down and isolate; choose connection.
Choose love and watch more of it come into your heart and fill your life with greater happiness.
- Keep moving forward.
Life is a series of choices we make. During the times when we get knocked back or knocked down, we have the choice to get up, to learn from the experience and to keep moving forward.
- Just being Alex.
Bad things came in threes for Mary Beth and me.
I miss my father-in-law’s spaghetti sauce and how delicious it would taste after a day on the beach. I miss how he treated me with real son-like respect because he knew I was taking care of his youngest child the way a man (according to his definition) should take care of a woman.
I miss my mother and what she was capable of being when she wasn’t numb. I regret not having the chance to tell that I do forgive her and wish her only peace. My hope is she knows this now.
I experienced death at close range this year. Looking at it from an intimate perspective made me blink and begin to think about the time I have left. The seven hours Mary Beth was in surgery made me worry that I might have to spend this time alone. I thought about how well I would do with the time.
Even though the thought of losing my wife was horrific, I knew if the worst happened, I would eventually make it through the pain and begin to live again because of the growth that has been happening inside of me.
The awareness of my weaknesses and the knowledge of what I should avoid, and what I need, is getting keener and more accurate as I grow older. My life is probably more than half over, but right now, I feel more alive, body and soul, than ever before.
Good things also come in threes: The death of my mom has brought me closer to my father; the bond between my wife and me has been made stronger; and I’m learning how to be happier with just being Alex.
More on How to be Happier
There have been many articles written about how to be happier. The following are some of my favorites. Enjoy!
- 12 Qualities of Happiness | Lorraine Cohen
- The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People | Marc Chernoff
- How to be Happy | Eric Hamm
- How to be Even More Miserable | Tim Brownson
- Acceptance and Attention – The Basis of Unconditional Love and Nuturing | Albert Foong
- Happiness Hangover: How to Remain Happy | Andrew Galasetti
- Altruism – One of the Keys to Happiness | Sid Savara
- Happiness is only Two Steps Away | Peter Normandia
- What Makes Us Happy | Anja Merret
- 10 Secrets to Happiness I Learnt from Andrew Matthews | Shun Jian
- 5 Small Yet Powerful Ways to Create More Compassion in the World | Amber Zuckswert
- Seven Ways to Stay Positive and Happy during Uncertain Times | Jenny Mannion
- Pursuit of Happiness: 32 Keys to Fulfillment | Adam Sicinski
- Lose Yourself to Find Yourself | Evelyn Lim