There has been much tragedy in my life. At least half of it actually happened.

-Mark Twain

I get a lot of stick from some of my most beloved blog/Twitter pals for being largely upbeat most of the time. I distinctly remember an exchange a few months ago where two people I follow egged each other on with comments like,

“Don’t you hate people who only say positive things? As if! Isn’t that annoying? The real world is not always cause for celebration.”

While I concur that the world has horrors to behold, I find the desire to be happy no less sexy than those who would give in to a sullen disposition. What is often said (and rarely believed) is that happiness is a choice. And it takes a lot of work. Don’t believe me? Get this:

In the past 3 years, life has offered me two devastating breakups, a life-altering health scare, being stabbed in the back by people in powerful positions both in Los Angeles and here in Baltimore, a botched audition (and lived to blog about it) and find myself torn between excelling at school and doing the things I love. I am far from my closest friends, scrapping at every spare moment to keep my playing passable, and wonder how the time will materialize for me to finish the next book and form a life that has a little bit more cohesion to it.

And dammit, I find a way to power through the days. Not with false platitudes, but with perspective. Under the auspices of grace. Do you even know the story of Polly Anna? I’m glad to be in her company, if that is what my way of seeing life is described as. One of the most important things you can do when you’re down is give. Give back, when you feel wrung utterly dry. Not to assuage grief or distract you, or even strike a balance with the universe. Giving when you are spent shows you that you are not really spent, at all. It ventilates the ache in your chest and helps you see the pit in your stomach as an informative ally.

Happiness is not the absence of suffering. It is a choice we all have when faced with adversity. I do not bound, giddily, from one adventure to the next. Now and again, Cagney pushes a grapefruit into my face, and I’m left wondering what’s next. What’s next, friends, is a blog like this. To listen to music is cause enough to be touched. To participate in it, to actually play or write or teach or study music? That is what you call incredible luck. Since you can’t run from life, may I gently suggest we remind each other, as I’m reminding you: life is short, and very much what you make it.

That’s how grapefruit juice was invented in the first place.


You are the music while the music lasts.
-T.S. Eliot

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13 thoughts on “Choosing Happiness”

  1. You completely and totally rock. You are a continual inspiration to me and many, many others, and I am lucky to have you in my life. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Emily, incredible post. Thank you for stating what you would think should be obvious but that obviously isn't. Your post is an encouragement to me to stay the course with my family's rule of gratitude. Whenever we complain about something we have to counter-balance it with something we are grateful for. As you said, being happy is a choice and it's a choice that isn't always so easy or apparent.

    Let's keep making that choice 🙂

    Erica
    http://ericaannsipes.blogspot.com

    Reply
  3. Love the heart, love the attitude, love the post. Hard times are what show us what we're really made of, and from what little I know about you through Twitter and this blog, hard times are proving you to be every bit of incredible person I imagine you are and more.

    May God bless you in your efforts to continue giving no matter what you get back and in your desire to choose happiness over pity.

    -T

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  4. Love the heart, love the attitude, love the post. Hard times are what show us what we're really made of, and from what little I know about you through Twitter and this blog, hard times are proving you to be every bit of incredible person I imagine you are and more.

    May God bless you in your efforts to continue giving no matter what you get back and in your desire to choose happiness over pity.

    -T

    Reply
  5. I truly want you to succeed – I was sorry to hear that some things in Baltimore went against you. Thank you for posting this; that took guts.

    Please remind me of this when it's my turn to gripe, OK?

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  6. Hi Emily,
    You are 'spot on' once again. I also have experieced awful stuff too, however I AM HAPPY. I choose to be happy. All saying that people imagine that I 'just do things' like memorise and oh yes after playing a different Bach Suite a day or two after the initial one the comment came back 'Oh well if you are playing Bach you are sort of into it already aren't you!' (?)
    I am not a happy playing machine!I suppose its because I don't bellyache about how difficult some things are, but I love them with all their intricasy and I can do them but they are still demanding.I like 'demanding things'and making effort working hard etc.I am sure you know where I am coming from. look forward to reading lots more from you. You are a wonderful example and please don't change!!
    with my best wishes as always
    Clare Deniz

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  7. Move over Pollyanna – I've got a bit of a "Silver Lining" complex. See, I have this wacky theory that there's always something good that emerges especially from the challenges or difficult times – if we learn how to look at it right. (And by "right," sometimes I mean far in hindsight although I'm learning to develop "near" perspective, lol)

    This a wonderful post. We can't always chose what happens to us in life, but we can chose how we respond to it. I believe being happy (or finding something to be happy about in the face of life's challenges) is the most important one of those choices.

    Good on, ya, Emily. Keep at it.

    Reply
  8. Great post. I try to do a little jujitsu on negativity when it hits me. Once I stop just feeling bad I try to appreciate the cause of my sadness, which is often the awareness of a truth. That thing was true the moment before I knew it, I tell myself, but back then I was in no position to do anything about it. It was as if I were touching a hot iron but the nerves were not firing from finger to brain. Now that I have learned this sad truth I am more intelligent, more powerful, and in a position to make things better. Blessings.

    Reply
  9. Hi Emily! I'm Nina. I started cello lessons just about a month ago at the good old age of 23 and my teacher recommended your blog. So glad she did! I love your philosophy of life, it's very similar to the Nichiren Buddhism I practice. Happiness is possible no matter what. It is a choice, as long as we take action for our own lives. Great blog, will be commenting often!

    Reply

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