Attitude is a choice.... at least that is what we are told. I have often told myself that over the years.
But this past week I realized that sometimes we can't choose. Sometimes what life brings us is so hard that we can't just "put on a happy face."
As you know, last week was one of those weeks for me. My grief was so very present that I could not pull any energy or joy out of my spirit. I was in a fog and the death of my friend, combined with some very complex emotional issues in our lives knocked me on my butt. And I couldn't do anything but ride it out.
Yesterday in our "All Staff Meeting" my boss and friend, the CEO, shared an excellent devotional from Ecclesiastes 3 about our time on earth being one where we taste both the high joys of heaven and the lows of hell all here on earth. Horrible things happen to us that we don't deserve... and amazing things happen that we don't deserve. And until we get to heaven where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain -- our life on earth will involve a mix of the sublime and the horrific. It is just what life is.
One of the things that I am learning as I age (and yes, it is my birthday today) is that embracing the full spectrum of life -- the good and the bad and allowing yourself to experience it all -- that is where the riches pieces of life lie. One of Bart's favorite quotes, and mine as well is from Annie Dillard. She says,
“In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world's rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned.”I have truly discovered the truth of these verses as we have journeyed through the ups and downs of raising our children -- that this caring, this life together stuff, is the very essence of what God intended for life to be.
Recognizing the meaning in the journey isn't the simplest thing to do, but it provides a life that is full and rich and settled. Knowing that even if outcomes aren't exactly as we hope, that what we have learned along the way in and of itself has value.
Last night we played "Name that Hymn" after Wednesday night supper at church. I totally kicked butt. And I was obnoxious about it. And Bart was pretty embarrassed. But I made myself laugh and made some others laugh and definitely established myself as the reigning queen of the game. And I could feel some joy returning.
So is happiness a choice? Sometimes it is, but many times it isn't. But here is the choice we do have: To embrace the life we are given -- here in our earthly bodies -- the highs and the lows -- the joy and the suffering -- and life it all. Going to the hard places, but going there together.... wrestling with the tough stuff together -- and then discovering that "complex and inexplicable caring for each other."
Choose that today. It's my choice ... to fully grapple with the hard times in life ... and when the good stuff happens, to allow myself to embrace that as well.