I read a quote recently that said “Happiness is a decision you make, not an emotion you feel”.

Some days that is so much easier said that done. I was talking to my mom recently and she was telling me how another family member had said they thought I had such a charmed and easy life. The idea of that made me laugh out loud because to me my life has seemed nothing if not complicated and overwhelming from my own view!

From my perspective I had struggled, and still do, to make friends. I had battled an eating disorder for over 20 years. I have survived not one sexual assault but a rape as well, and numerous situations of sexual harassment during my career. In my teen years I battled depression pretty badly, and near the end of this past spring it popped back up prompting me to start using an anti-depressant (read about that here). I also lost my dad to cancer, he was my hero and my daughter’s best friend in the whole world.

I, like everyone else, have felt broken and alone in this big world.

A few days after that conversation I was doing my friend’s hair (she’s my person for you Grey’s Anatomy fans, so I come out of retirement only for her), and we were talking about this very subject and how it’s so easy for other people to simply take a glance at someone else and make so many assumptions about their life. I’m sure social media doesn’t help. I’m as guilty as the next person of cautiously taking pictures that don’t show my double chin or belly rolls. As I was putting foils and color in her hair, she said the same thing as that quote. “Amber, happiness is a decision”. Trust me when I say that if anyone is allowed to be unhappy, it would be her, she’s been through some shit if you know what I mean! Yet, she’s one of the most giving and kind, happy people I know.

It’s such a profound and yet simply idea isn’t it? We can look at our surroundings and compare them to everyone else’s and find flaw after flaw, or we can simply look at our own life and look for the little glimmers of the sunshine buried in the muck. For religious people they would see this as little examples of God working in their lives, and for those of us who aren’t religious its a beautiful little example of how we can choose what we allow ourselves to focus on in our camera lens of life.

I’ve noticed that the more I focus on the concept of paying forward the good fortune I’ve found in life in the last year, the more I’m able to choose happiness when things are feeling rough. I’ve also noticed that more and more examples of this very thought end up surrounding me in life.

I met a lady a few years older than myself while at J.C. Penny’s last weekend. I was hunting for one of those fantastic spandex girdles that sucks all your fat in under fancy clothes. She was on the hunt for the same thing. I have no idea how it happened, especially since as a general rule I don’t particularly like people most days, but in the ladies fitting room trying on lingerie, we both started talking over our dressing stalls. I know, it’s insane. Anyway, somehow we were talking about these stupid fat-smooshers and our own self-image, and I shared my recent journey with her. She never told me her name, but before she left we were hugging and I had given her my contact info. I left that store full of happiness knowing I had been someone else boost of happy that day. Sometimes, it’s not just about looking for those little golden rays of light in your own life, but planting them in other people’s lives that brings you happiness!

I’m sure if you’re still reading this post you’re thinking I’ve gone off the rails recently with all this happiness is a choice rattle-prattle, but I haven’t. It’s actually quite simple. In every argument I get in with my husband, with every person I run across out of my home, and every HOA meeting I somehow manage to stir the pot at, I realize more and more the difference between people whose Instagram looks the same as their lives (save for those double chins and belly rolls) and those who look at everyone else and wonder how they have such bad luck. It’s the choice to be happy.

I simply have decided that I don’t care how much I have to live through. I am going to make every effort to try, even on my worst days, to create my own sunshine in the dark because I wantto choose happiness. Think of the impact this creates for not only my view, my ability to handle life, but the legacy I leave behind and impact the world around me with?! If I’m focused on creating that positivity myself, I have hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to create it for others as well, and it comes full circle when you choose to pay it forward; it always does.

At the end of my dad’s life, he spent a lot of time in the back yard. It was unseasonably warm that year. We would talk and talk about deep feelings and life, but one of the things that’s impacted me the most he said in the car shortly before he passed. The song “Here Comes the Sun” came on, and he commented how much he loved that song. I wasn’t even there, he said it to my mom, so I’m not sure if he expanded on that statement or not, but we ended up playing it at his funeral, and until last year (several years after he passed) I couldn’t hear it without falling apart. Then something changed this last year, and I love hearing it because it reminds me of something beautiful about my dad. He was one of my little golden lights buried in the muck of life. He chose, even the the absolute blackest time of his far-too short life to be my sunshine and pay-it-forward.

Happiness is a choice. -Michael J. Fox