Author: Linda Ambard
Happiness is a choice. It isn't always easy to make that choice and certainly life is not always fair, but looking for the blessings and for the small things that spark contentment is easier than enduring a pity party. The choice involves thought and intentionality because people innately fixate on what is going wrong, what is missing, or what should or could be. When Phil was killed, early on I recognized that anger or the desire for revenge wouldn't bring Phil back, but it would in essence give away my life, too. I made a choice to use my time, energy, and focus on honoring the man Phil was as a military officer, husband, and father. He was about so much more than the way he died.
Like most people, I assumed a lot of things about my life. I thought I knew how my fifties were going to look, and this is not what I saw. The last of our five children had just left the house the year Phil deployed. Since he married me and became dad to Patrick, Josh, and Emily, we never had time without children. We were looking forward to traveling without children, building our dream house, and eventually retiring to Washington state.
I made assumptions about life in other ways, too. I assumed that if I prayed, and if everyone else prayed, God would protect Phil from harm's way. I have had to come to grips with that assumptive world shattering. My thinking has shifted. I have come to recognize that sometimes bad things happen to really good people and that life isn't always fair, thus I must not waste my life's moments by living in the shadows, cowering, or wishing for what is not possible.
Shifting my perspective, now looking at what I have to be thankful for, has been key. I had to shift my thinking from feeling cheated by Phil's death to being thankful for the twenty-three years we did have together. On my dark days, I force myself to acknowledge three things I'm grateful for. This act isn't always easy and I have to really think about it on those days, but when I find those nuggets of optimism, it sparks something inside me. Those sparks remind me of what I do have, what I have to get up for in the morning, and more than that, it gives me hope.
On those dark days, I consciously look for ways to perform random acts of kindness in service to others. When I take the focus off of me, I am able to act. In giving, my batteries are reset. I see pain in others and by reaching, we heal together.
I also force myself to get outside. There is something in moving that brings me sparks of joy. I find myself centering and working through the tears. I run, listen to meaningful music, fall into my faith, and I come home and write those thoughts. Through those simple acts. I am able to purge the darkness most days. Make no mistake, it isn't easy some days or even weeks, but in the conscious deciding that I cannot give up living, I am able to act. Phil did not have a choice about his death, but I have a choice about how I want to live. I choose life always. And that means I show up and live my life, fighting for happiness and meaning.