“Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.” – French proverb
There was a time in my life when the need to be in control was paramount. I had a difficult time with any situation in which I was not in complete and total control. That’s not to say that I didn’t find myself in those situations often because, hey, this is life and to believe we’re in control of this Crazy Train is about as ridiculous as believing that mashing a few random words together, captioning a photo with them, and sharing it on the internet actually makes those words true (Facebook friends and humans in general, let’s do better with this one, please).
The point is, many things in my life were out of my control and rather than rolling with the punches, I nearly drove myself crazy trying to make everything around me bend to my will.
And then a few things happened that completely changed the way I approach life. First of all, I became a mom. Let me rephrase that. I became “mom” to the most strong-willed, fiery, unpredictable, and tenacious baby girl (which, in itself, throws any notion of being in control right out the window). My health became all-consuming and unmanageable. My marriage failed. I found myself a single, uneducated mother, living in a crappy one-bedroom apartment with no real source of income and not a clue what to do next.
Essentially, everything I thought I knew and all the plans I’d carefully made, had crashed and burned. It was then, while sifting through the wreckage that used to be my life, that I realized there were only two things in this world that I truly had any control over: my attitude and the amount of effort I was willing to put in to change my circumstances.
When things go differently than we had planned, or when something bad happens, its so easy to play the victim; to place blame, get angry, or give up entirely. I know this because I’ve been that person. And let’s be honest, I still feel like the victim of circumstance when nothing seems to be going right, and in those moments it’s so much easier to throw myself a pity party than actually do something about my situation. But for the most part, I’ve let go of that need to be in control and I’ve given up so many expectations about what life should be like. I’ve also realized that this life of mine is 100% my responsibility and if I’m unhappy, the only person I can blame is myself. As a result, I’ve gotten a lot better at taking whatever hand life deals me, and playing it to the best of my ability.
There is a certain beauty in letting go. In trusting yourself enough to move forward, even when you don’t know what the next step will be. Sure, life might throw some curve balls (it definitely will) and there might be some really, really difficult things along the way (without a doubt, because life is cruel and heartbreaking) but I find a great sense of peace in knowing that no matter what the situation is, I get to choose how to react.
I am frequently asked, “why are you so happy?” particularly when I am in the hospital. This used to strike me as very odd because I was just being myself; I didn’t realize it was out of the ordinary. But after giving it some real thought, I realized a couple things. First of all, it is in my nature to be happy. I’m an eternal optimist who subscribes to the belief that you can either let hard things make you bitter, or you can let them make you better. Most of the time, I choose the latter (although being bitter is a lot of fun sometimes, it’s usually an unproductive emotion so I try not to wallow in it too much.)
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I actively choose to be happy. I know it sounds cliché to say that happiness is a choice, but I wholeheartedly believe that it is. Some days it’s incredibly hard, and sometimes I don’t do a very good job of it. But I make an effort every single day.
There are still things that I need to be in control of — for instance, I’m very particular about my schooling and anything related to my healthcare — and there will always be things that make me sad, helpless, or even infuriated. I’m not advocating for shutting out all other emotions and putting on a happy face all the time because that’s not realistic, nor would it be healthy. Those emotions deserve to be felt and processed thoroughly.
However, I firmly believe that at the end of the day, regardless of where life has planted us, it is entirely up to us to decide whether we will bloom or wither away.
What do you choose?
Edited to add: I realize there is privilege embedded in my ability to say that this is a choice for me. There are so many who struggle with things (like mental illness) that make it impossible for them to simply choose this. This post is in no way meant to be taken as life doctrine, nor to imply that everyone shares the same outlook or ability. These are simply my thoughts about my experiences.