Most of my life I have considered myself a happy person, until quite recently. I'm not sure exactly when I stopped feeling happy most of the time, but I really started to notice it in the last year.
I have always believed that being happy is a choice. I recognize that the choice is nearly impossible for people in the middle of war zones and concentration camps, places where natural disasters have swept away their families and everything they know, or in the midst of terrible illnesses, or devastating financial reversals. Yet, we've all heard stories of individuals in the midst of the most terrible experiences who have chosen to find moments of happiness and joy.
Having, I think, regained some of my lost sense of joy, I have been reflecting on how it is that one chooses happiness. I regret that I have not yet read the Dalai Lama's book on this subject -- it is on my summer reading list -- but I suspect that I am not the first person to discover this.
My discovery -- what makes the difference is one's point of reference, whom or what one chooses for purposes of comparing one's situation.
I was doing housework this morning; I haven't done much housework in the past few years, and its obvious as soon as one enters my house. I choose a 3' x 8' area of the bathroom off our family room. I got scrub brushes, cleaning fluids, cloths, mops, paper towels, and got on my hands and knees. It took me an entire hour. Getting up and down from the floor was really difficult. I have both osteo- and rheumatoid-arthritis, asthma, and I'm obese - to be honest "morbidly" obese. But when I was finished that section of the bathroom was clean -- really, really clean.
When I finished I was exhausted, completely worn out. I sat down and rested, and I started to feel unhappy. I remembered that twenty years ago, I was able to clean an entire 6 room apartment in half a day. Then, suddenly, I remembered a year ago. A year ago, before the rheumatoid arthritis was diagnosed and medication started, while I was also suffering from extreme plantar fasciitis, and a pinched nerver in my hip, and I couldn't walk without a cane or walker. A year ago, I could not get down on the floor -- unless I fell, which I did a few times -- and I couldn't get up without substantial assistance. Yet this year, as difficult as it was I had gotten up and down from the floor six times in the space of an hour all by myself, and while down on the floor I had scrubbed and cleaned. Suddenly I was absolutely giddy with pleasure and a sense of accomplishment.
All it took was a change in my point of reference.