Every day—every moment—we choose how we experience our life.
Yesterday I picked Atticus up after school. All day he had hoped for a playdate with friends, but it just didn’t work out. When I delivered the news, he cried and protested as we stood outside the school. I walked him to the car and enthusiastically shared our plans for the evening. Atticus continued to cry and protest.
When we arrived at the restaurant, I reminded him that only he could change how he felt. It was obvious he wasn’t ready to stop carrying the disappointment. When we sat down at the table, he put his head down.
Quiety, I whispered, “I am going to enjoy this visit with our friends. You can choose to be unhappy about what didn’t happen or choose to enjoy what is. It is all up to you. I love you; whatever you choose.” Eventually he chose to enjoy the meal and move forward, but not until he was ready.
I realized three things in that moment:
1. Parenting requires patience and compassion, this we know, but it also requires us to let our children suffer (a bit) if they choose. I didn’t shame or threaten him, I just coached and let him choose. He chose wisely…for himself.
2. I chose wisely, too. At times we suffer with others, and miss an opportunity to be present and enjoy the moment. When we choose to not be unhappy, others may do the same. And it they don’t, we still have saved ourselves unnecessary suffering.
3. The more we choose the Road Less Unhappy, the easier it becomes to make this choice.
Why choose to not be unhappy (a double negative no-no in the world of editing)? Why not choose happiness?
Chasing happiness is like chasing the wind, we run in all directions as our perceptions constantly shift and change. What we perceive will make us happy at one moment, may not in another. Unhappiness is easier to pin down. Unhappiness is immediate. Unhappiness is focussing on what is not, rather than what is.
Choose to not be unhappy.
Commit to this practice.
Never give up.
Watch what comes.
Like Atticus, I am constantly working towards choosing wisely every moment.
Some days, I am the teacher; some days he is.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Jennifer Moore