At the start of November, we have Election Day here in the United States, where we as individuals get to cast our own singular votes and make some considerable choices for our country, choices that affect many. Every day, however, each of us has a choice we can make that affects ourselves and those around us in a way that is perhaps not as concrete as a ballot but is nonetheless just as important.
Every day, we choose how we are going to interact with those around us. Every day we choose if we are going to face the world with hope and flexibility, humor and compassion, or the opposite. I think it was even a past President, one Mr. Abraham Lincoln, who the quote is attributed to – people are generally about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I myself remember reading a quote every day, almost subconsciously, that was posted outside the gym in my high school. It said “Attitude is Everything”, and I don’t think I really actually got it until at least five years later.
Attitude is everything. We cannot control what other people say and do, how they act and how they choose to face the world everyday, but we can absolutely decide for ourselves what kind of person we are going to be in relation to everything around us.
I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m certainly not advocating for falsity, pasting on a fake smile while secretly seething. Just trying to make our way with grace, trying to show kindness even when it’s hard, trying to laugh instead of rage. Trying to remember that it is us, and only us, who have the final say in our own happiness, from the little every day complaints that we gripe about to the seemingly insurmountable grief of tragedy. At the end of the day, we have the final say as to how we are going to respond to the other, uncontrollable things life throws at us all the time.
We can start with the little things. Taking a deep breath before we speak when we are angry. Noticing the beauty of the sky, or even the rain, remembering the good things we have instead of dwelling on the bad. Realizing, simply, that it feels better to be happy. That it’s nice to smile more, to laugh a lot.
We can respect ourselves, and love ourselves despite our imperfections, and respect and love others despite theirs. We can love the strange and wonderful things we find in this imperfect world. For the world is imperfect, and sometimes it seems overwhelming, sometimes even terrible.
Sometimes it seems useless to make the choice to be happy. And sometimes, often in fact, the world is overwhelming and terrible. But it is strange and wonderful as well. Why add to all the badness that’s out there? When we choose to be happy in spite of it all, we increase the wonderful things. We choose to make the world a little bit brighter.