Today I’m in my new home, two days before my move-in day, waiting for various installers and service people to show up. In the quiet times between appointments, I sit in a lawn chair in my empty kitchen, working my way through a seemingly endless list of phone calls on my to-do list. I pause occasionally to pick up my binoculars or camera to watch the flurry of activity at the half dozen bird feeders the previous owners graciously left behind for me. The light snowfall overnight has brought the birds in droves to this easily-accessible energy source.
As I walk around the empty rooms of the house with my footsteps echoing around me, my thoughts and emotions fluctuate from excitement and anticipation back to fretting about how much work and money it will take to maintain a home by myself. I think I’ve made great progress in the past year in learning how to control my fears, and I know that no matter what happens, I can figure out how to deal with it. I am braver than I ever imagined. I am resourceful and creative, and I’m willing to ask for help when I need it.
A few minutes ago I was standing at my kitchen window looking at the birds, and I realized that I was trying to decide what I was feeling at that moment. It was the oddest feeling, making a conscious decision about how to feel. But that’s another thing I’ve learned recently—our thoughts determine our feelings, not the other way around. If you feel scared it might be because you’re paying attention to the random fearful thoughts that pop up in your head. If you actively force yourself to think of happier things, or even just make yourself smile, your emotions will follow. You’ll feel lighter, happier, more joyful.
Seriously. Try it right now. Put a big smile on your face and notice how it makes you feel. I’m not talking about a grin here. Make it a full show-your-teeth smile. How do you feel? When I do that, I instantly feel more optimistic and happier. It may seem strange, but who cares? Do it when nobody’s looking, or go in the bathroom for a quick smile break. Knowing that it’s often that easy to lift your own spirits, we’d all be crazy not to take advantage of this little secret, right?
So as I stood at the window this afternoon, I decided to allow myself to feel the joy that was just under the surface. I had a fullness of heart, as if my heart was literally expanding from an excess of gratitude. When you decide to allow YOURSELF to be happy (because I know you will), make sure to ignore that mean little voice that sometimes tries to whisper, “Be careful of being too happy…it won’t last…you know bad things are coming.” That voice is not your friend. Or course it’s true that bad things will happen to all of us. That’s life. But if we deny ourselves the experience of joy just because of sad things that might happen in the future, we’re robbing ourselves of our lives, moment by moment.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m running out of moments to waste. This moment is my life.