You've probably heard someone talking about how happiness is a choice. If you're reading this, it's pretty likely you're one of the people that have made that choice.
You're probably even one of the people who realizes that it is a choice that you have to make over and over, sometimes in the same hour :)
Out on my run today, I was pondering how happy I was to be out running on a hot, but beautiful day, and I got to thinking about some of the people in my life. It led me to the realization that while I expect others to respect the choices I make in my quest for happiness and fulfillment, I don't always respect theirs.
I will readily admit suspending judgement of those closest to me is one of my hardest struggles. I think my judgement is based on love and "seeing what could be better in their lives". Have you been guilty of this too?
A prime example is my mom. Everything I believe about strong, unstoppable women comes from watching her as I grew up. She was a force of nature. Known, loved and respected from the top to the bottom of her company, anyone who worked at ComEd, knew my mom. She was one of those people who could get things done and whose bad side you didn't want to be on. She makes friends at first sight, like falling in love. At the store, at the hotel or restaurant, anywhere. When people meet my mom, they are instantly friends with her. After she retired, she went through some changes. I'll certainly never understand all of them, but the result was that she made some choices that made her happy, but they made her different than the mom I had grown up with. She didn't seem as strong or confidant or secure as she used to be.
For years, I thought this was a bad thing, we even had some pretty unpleasant arguments around it. I felt like she let me down, like that strong woman who showed me all I could be was gone and that made me question if it had been real. If my beliefs were founded. At one point, during one of those ugly conversations, she told me that she is happy the way she is now.
Honestly, it didn't sink in until today.
I was thinking about me, and what I wanted and what I needed. What I thought was best for her, and you know what, that's not up to me, any more than it is up to her to tell me what choices I should make for my happiness.
Using the line my friend often uses, sometimes it takes a 2 x 4 for an idea to sink in. She is happy, and all I need to do is be happy for her.
There are plenty of other examples I could cite, but it only dilutes the point. I'm sure you have people in your life that you can draw a parallel to. Their choice for happiness isn't yours, isn't something you even think has value, but it's their choice.
Sometimes people in our lives are making bad choices like dead end jobs, or abusive relationships, or neglecting or abusing their own health, or worse, and it is definitely a great thing if we can help them through those times.
But sometimes, they are making a choice - their choice - for their happiness. Even if we think "they could do better" or "if only they would ...", that's not our choice, it is theirs.
And then, our job is to respect and support it, just as we want them to do for ours.