The Beautiful Ability to Choose Happy

It’s kind of impossible to fathom that this weekend is Memorial Day. Months of pandumbic following a pretty icky winter melded together and stole the presence of seasons flowing from winter, to spring and now summer. As we continue to experience a global trauma in unison, I am often pulling myself out of my own head to look at bigger picture problems. While I certainly have decent excuses to be depressed, angry and frustrated with my life, I also have the ability to choose happy. This is something I haven’t done a lot of over the past six months. Not that I’ve been depressed and blue since November, but I kind of have. Feels like wasted time but also a lesson in controlling the view of things.

Another epic sunset on the Oregon Coast.

I have the ability to control my choices on how I react to things. This includes the current pandumbic and my personal challenges.

Today, I choose happy. It takes work, but I made it a clear intention. For the next months ahead, I am taking care of myself. I will choose destinations that will bring my joy. I will engage in activities that make me smile. The work I take on will mean something positive to me, and will be for clients that I enjoy working with and respect. If I’m not working, instead of sulking, I will relish those days and go out for a longer walk and make more time for writing, meditation, yoga and laughter.

The infamous Devil’s Punchbowl.

The Oregon coast is breathtaking. The trees meet the seas, and the coastline is spacious with plenty of room for walking, exploring and contemplating. For the past week, I have settled down in a town called Newport. I’ve been here two other times this year. Last summer, I camped in the Marina and laughed at the honks of the seals that live behind the big fish cannery. On my way up the coast to Washington, I stopped here for a night because I knew it was a safe spot. And now, I’m finding plenty of beachside parking spaces to relax, enjoy the view, access the shore where my dog runs off leash with joy and abandon.

Scoob loves running off leash on the beach.

Happiness is a choice. I learned this years ago at the advent of my Buddhist practice, and certainly noticed this is possible in my twenties as I embarked on my independence from my parents. One can choose happiness, and I have this ability after decades of hard work. Many times I see memes boasting “Choose Happy,” this choice is rather complicated.for those of us who were taught that happiness was this etherial thing we’d never find. Happiness is a state of mind and a choice. It’s not this easy thing you do with a flick of a switch, but it can be that easy with practice.

Instead of trying to be a joyous human at the blink of an eye, I start with small moments. I invite in gratitude to shift my mindset. This happens in steps for me.

REAL Dungeness crab bites in this Local Ocean crab cake.

There is a sound healer I got turned onto by my pal Mel a couple of months ago. On Fridays, this lovely elder woman turns on Facebook live and sends out oodles of love through chanting, singing, sound making and indigenous song. She makes odd sounds, laughter and a host of other noise with the intention of putting healing and love into the world. I relish this Friday sessions and tune in ready to receive. Sometimes I’m still, sometimes I’m driving when she’s on. I just turn it on and let her expel her sound love. At the latter part of her healing session, she does a bit about gratitude. Two weeks ago, she said, you can be grateful for all kinds of things even when you’re down and out. She mentioned a host of things, “I’m grateful for the sky, I’m grateful I’m in good health, I’m grateful I live in my car… “ Wait, what? This got my attention. Eff yah, I’m GRATEFUL AF I LIVE IN MY RIG! I knew she was trying to give hope to people who are struggling far worse than I am but if I’m not grateful to live in this “car” then I should end the #vanlife journey I’m on now. Seriously, what a great thing to be grateful for. Two weeks go, I took on a new mantra in my gratitude list that includes:

  • I’m grateful to live in my van.
  • I’m grateful to be in good health.
  • I’m grateful my son is sober and safe.
  • I’m grateful for the companionship of my wonderful dog and mischievous cat.
  • I’m grateful for the framily I created out of the good friends I’ve made.
  • I’m grateful I have a fridge with food in it.
  • I’m grateful to see sunsets on the Pacific ocean every day.
  • I’m grateful. Like truly.

It is said that practicing gratitude daily changes your mindset exponentially. I’ve tried this for years, and I can attest to the validity of this concept. Our minds are mailable, and can be changed from one way to another by deploying a change of mindset. This is true not just for texts and learning, but also for state of being and desire to be in the world. I’m alive and I have a lot to be grateful for. This adventure I’m on, without question, is my greatest achievement and I have so much to be thankful for. Look at the amazing places I’ve been, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve sucked up with great enthusiasm. I’ve chosen adventure over defeat, and travel over isolation. Things could be very different if I didn’t put my happiness first last year when my world came crumbling down around me.

Sunset greetings.

The happy choice has paid off. I’m financially taken care of. I am in a beautiful part of the world. I have love all around me and I’m definitely not alone in this stupid isolation time. The isolation has been an anvil weighing heavily on me. I’m a social human who needs people. Fortunately, the world is opening back up and I’m not alone out here quite as much. Next fall, I’m going to step back into the classroom and start teaching again! Very excited about this, doesn’t seem real but it is.

It is Memorial Day Weekend. Certainly not the celebratory mark of summer we are used to with pandumbic still very much at the forefront of our lives, but it can still be the beginning of a summer of self care, exploration, creativity and van adventures ahead.

Gotta love the seals of Newport.