Choose and Be Happy

Double Time, Paris Musée d’Orsay, taken by my late husband

Felixstowe Suffolk UK

My word for 2012 is choices.

Like most people, Clive and I are bombarded daily by to-do’s, responsibilities, and — depending on the day and what else is happening in our lives and the lives of those close to us — greater or fewer choices.

I have three aspirations around choices:

1.  To acknowledge I have many choices, even when the idea of choice seems impossible (see below).  One of my hot buttons is when people blame everything and everyone other than themselves for what are often the results of their own choices. At times I need to remind myself to take responsibility for my choices.

2.  To be mindful, firstly of how I make choices; secondly, of the options to consider when making a choice.

3.  To be thankful I have choices, from life in a free country to our emotional and physical resources to the general health and well-being of our family and friends.

Even When the Notion of Choice Seems Impossible

Certain stages of life limit choices or dictate much of our schedule and activities — job and career responsibilities, raising young children, caring for older relatives. Accidents, illness, death of loved ones, and other emergencies force us to drop everything, respond to urgent needs, and enter unknown territory where the idea of ‘choice’ seems alien and unfathomable.

Six months after I was widowed in 2003, someone gave me the book I’m Grieving as Fast as I Can-A Guide for Young Widow/ers. Eventually when I looked at it, the chapter that helped me the most was one in which the author challenged the notion that life was now completely out of control, a near-universal feeling of the recently-widowed. Instead, she listed a number of areas in which we still had choices — from simple things like food and clothing to deeper ones such as with whom I spent free time and how I responded emotionally to what was happening. I tore out the pages and kept them close at my desk.

Yes, control is an illusion but when I thought about it then – and again, now – even if it’s about life’s basics, we still have choices.

Choices about Big Stuff

Direction and priorities – our ‘areas of focus’ and their relative importance to the bigger picture of our life

Time – setting aside large chunks — where and with whom in our global family — and planning for couple travel and time at home

Money – saving it, spending it as wisely as possible

Choices about Physical Stuff

Diet – what (and how much) food and drink I put in my mouth

Rest – getting enough sleep – what time I turn off my laptop, stop reading, go to sleep!

Exercise – when and how far to walk, our main form of exercise which we both love doing

Choices about Emotional Stuff

–  My attitudes – to events, people, everything!

–  My reactions – I’m usually patient with a high tolerance for things going wrong or other people’s foibles, but sometimes I (choose to!) boil over

Choices about Daily Stuff

Emotional and physical choices, as above

Words and tone I use when communicating – spoken and written

Daily time – how much inside vs. outside, how much writing, reading, time on the Internet, time cooking, shopping, etc.

Social – hermit time vs. time with friends and family

– Even the frequency and subjects of this blog are choices

Choices about Saying ‘No’ and Making Trade-offs

Saying ‘no’ is often — not always, but more than one might think — a choice. I’ve always had a hard time saying the word, especially when the request for ‘yes’ comes from someone close to me. We did learn to say ‘no’ in response to endless friend-of-friend requests for free accommodation in Sydney (see Moocher Madness).  

Most of us don’t have unlimited time, energy, or money. Saying ‘no’ to one possibility and choosing to make a trade-off can open the door to being able to say ‘yes’ to something more meaningful.

Choices about Balance

– To balance our choices in large and small ways – for example, time for individual interests, couple time, time with friends and family, time for travel as well as projects at home.

Choices and Change

I’ve learned some choices stir the waters of change. We’ve experienced so much change in the past few years that my word for 2011 was settleWe ended up moving around quite a bit so aim to make choices this year that result in less-fragmented travel.

At home in Felixstowe, my goal is to resume a writing project I put on the back burner last September. Clive’s is to pursue music and technology interests. We both hope to do a lot of walking and exploring around Suffolk whilst continuing our renovations and time spent with family and friends.

I know our choices won’t be perfect, but believe that by being conscious of process and content, we won’t have too many regrets.

Choose and Be Happy

I’ll end this post with something I read years ago that stayed with me, attributed as an old Japanese proverb:  Choose and be happy.

The essence of this proverb as I understand it is *not* to spend endless hours dithering, pondering, and analysing (all of which I’ve been known to do), but to take reasonable time to thoughtfully consider alternatives, then decide.

My wish for everyone is, to whatever extent possible, this year and every year, choose and be happy.

Bonbons at Fête des Tuileries, Paris

Cheers for now and more soon.

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the reminder that we are truly the makers of our own destiny.

  2. Such a great post. It’s not easy to do by any means but at least we can be mindful and try to chose our attitude and how we react. If not that’s when the true loss of control takes place.

  3. Anne, hi and thanks for your comment!

    Corine, welcome and appreciate your visit and kind words. (And lenjoyed your book, too!)


  4. I’ve read this twice, once a couple of days ago when I didn’t have time to leave a comment, and again this morning. Different points made an impact on me during the two readings and I daresay that I’ll read it again in the future when I need a reminder about the choices that are available to us.

    Good luck on your writing project!

  5. Even if we’re “conscious of process and content,” we must assume that some of our choices will not turn out as successfully as we hope; therefore, we must also promise ourselves not to get too hot and bothered over things that don’t turn out like we plan! Tiredness and stress seem to so often interfere with making reasonable choices, although that realization rarely becomes evident until after the fact! Having or not having control is an issue that I have struggled with many times, so I will have to remember “choose and be happy.”

  6. Mary Kay, hi and thank you! Appreciate your comment (and love reading your blog about your daily ‘choices’ in Paris!).

    Eleanor, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re the proverb — ie our choices will almost without doubt be less than perfect but we still need to trust that by being mindful and acting in good faith, we will not (we hope and pray!) have too many regrets.

    Cheers to all with our various choices.

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