Sunday, February 1, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

I hope this makes sense. I'm typing while good ol' Bruce rocks out on my TV. I haven't always supported Super Bowl Sunday, but to keep the peace in my home, I've come around. Please, don't judge me. At least we've got a great excuse to eat nachos with queso dip. Yay.

Back to the discussion at hand, did you read those books when you were younger? You know the kind where you'd read to a certain point in the story and then the book would give you two alternatives and you'd turn to the page based on which choice you made? So, the main character could go into the dark alleyway, or get in the dark car with the stranger. And then you'd continue reading until given a choice again until the book was over. Or, if you were like me, you'd read it through about 30 times in order to read all of the different choices and outcomes. Ah, those were fun.

Anyway, life is kind of like that. You always have a choice.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I've been doing very well for the last while. Today I'd like to share the main reason for this. I won't share all the details because it was a very personal experience, but back in November I had a bit of an epiphany. I suddenly realized that without the depression, I truly love the life I'm living.

Let me explain. I think I've already shared that my depression began shortly before my wedding. That had nothing to do with HH. It was because of the birth control pills I started taking and the stress of preparing for a wedding and being a new wife. From that point on, I began feeling trapped in my life. I kept thinking to myself, 'This isn't what I signed on for.' The angry, stressful life I was living was a far cry from the marital bliss I'd always imagined. It's not like I never was happy with my life, but whenever things got bad, I felt trapped. Being married is hard. Sometimes really painful. If we love each other this much, shouldn't we always be happy and in love? It must be because I'm not very good at being a wife.

Then we had Sweet P. And being a mom was hard. I always thought it would come naturally to me. It wasn't. It was hard. This wasn't what I'd signed on for either. But things weren't all bad, so we decided to have Little M. And he was REALLY difficult. I felt very trapped. And I convinced myself that I wasn't very good at being a mom.

Don't get me wrong--I love and adore my husband. I love and adore my children. I just kept thinking that I wasn't "good" at being a wife and mom. I was very dissatisfied with my life, but not the people in it. But all of the negative thinking was only feeding into my depression. Add to that the fact that I kept thinking of other things I could be doing if only I were free. And I kept telling myself that if only I could do those things, then I would be happy.

So, back in November I pictured myself living my life, just minus the depression. And suddenly I realized that I'm doing exactly what I'd choose to do with my life if I were free from the depression. In fact, I would love my life.

And this amazing thing happened, once I realized that I could love my life just the way it is, I chose to do just that. It's amazing what a difference that has made. Suddenly, playing with my kids isn't a chore to just get over--I love it! Because that is a huge part of what I do and I love what I do. Holding a grudge against HH when we have a disagreement doesn't seem so important any more. Loving being married to him has taken priority over proving that I am right.

And so far, I've been able to keep the depression at bay because I just keep reminding myself that I love my life. Sometimes it's harder to do than others. But it all comes down to the simple fact that being happy and finding joy in my life is entirely up to me. I can no longer blame the people in my life, or even the depression for my mood. It is entirely up to me. I have the power to choose. I chose this life a long time ago and every step along the way. It's unfortunate that it's taken me this long to take advantage of this power for so long. But I choose not to dwell on what I missed out on. Instead I choose to be grateful for all that we've learned from our challenges. And the fact that I appreciate everything I have so much more now because of the perspective I'm coming from.

How many times have you heard that life is "10% what happens to you and 90% what you do with it"? This is not a new concept. I just didn't really get it until recently. This is another lesson that I'm terrified of forgetting. Life isn't always great and sometimes I feel like another bout of depression is right around the corner. But the one thing I do know, is that no matter what is going on, I do always have the ability to choose. That can never be taken from me. Sometimes I forget and through lack of action, I choose to be unhappy. But the great thing is, at any point I can't stop that and "choose my own adventure." I choose joy.

I want to conclude my thoughts with a quote from Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning.

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

What do you think? Have you been able to put this concept to use in your own life? How do you choose to focus on the joy even when life is hard, or bad things happen?


Kristen said...

Thanks for your thoughts for today. I really appreciate them and will give me something new to look at this week.

Kristen said...
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Kristen said...
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Linda said...

I couldn't agree more - thanks!

Linda said...

ps - I love the quotes - They're always so perfect and make me think :) BTW, maybe we should visit Eleanor Roosevelt's place when Jennifer's here? love you!

Nikki said...

Cheryl, I couldn't agree more, I had a recent epiphany myself along the same lines (and probably around the same time too). It was a huge relief to enjoy the life I have. I think it is difficult to be content in our culture of consumerism. I am starting to enjoy the more simple gifts in life. Thanks for sharing your heart!

Jen said...

Thanks for this post Cheryl. Sorry this comment is late in coming. . . I'm finally catching up.

I've felt "trapped" quite often lately between my many responsibilities, particularly my part-time job. It seems to be a love/hate relationship. I find that it's all about the attitude and it's something that I am working on every day. Thanks for the reminders.

I really enjoyed reading about your epiphany. Each of your posts is so well thought-out and inspired. I can't imagine the time that you put into doing this every week. I hope that you can make them all into a book someday. I bet, at some point in time, Sweet P will need these messages as much as we all do.