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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Choose

Last week I attended a lecture by Michael Tougias, an author of 19 non-fiction books that range from nature humor, There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse, to several books documenting horrific sea disasters, Ten Hours before Dawn... The author attended the same small college I did— our time overlapped briefly. Though we have never been introduced, I’ve been aware of, and intrigued by, his own story for years. He’s a former businessman, turned full-time author and speaker. But it wasn’t until last week that I took one of his books, Fatal Forecast… out of the library.  Coincidentally, at the check out desk, a flier advertised that he was scheduled to speak locally the next day, and I decided to attend.

I arrived at the meeting room Thursday night to a large video screen pulled down at the front. Rather than a traditional reading, the author's talk included a slide show with several images that drove home the desperate plight experienced by the true-life players in his newest book, Overboard. Images of 30 foot waves cresting over unfortunate vessels elicited more than a few gasps from the audience, but it was a remark during his presentation that pulled me in deeper then the seas off of George's Bank.

Tougias explained that while interviewing the survivors of the many nautical disasters he's written about, a reoccurring theme arose. Each person he talked to remarked that, no matter how many years go by,  they continue to carry the gratitude for their survival with them through their daily lives. Tougias said after hearing this repeatedly from these individuals, all of whom had come within a hiccup of dying, he adopted the idea of embracing gratitude too. It didn't take a near death experience for him, as a result of listening as they described their harrowing stories, he made a decision to focus on things he is thankful for.  Consequently, he says he has become more open to joy.

A few days later and way behind the mainstream, I sat in bed reading the mega hit Eat, Pray Love, (please tell me how they made a movie out of a book that involves so much thinking) and encountered a passage that reminded of me Tougias’s words:

Elizabeth Gilbert writes:

“…people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You need to fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.”

So in less than a week, I encountered two different authors traveling polar opposite paths…a man who held conversations with survivors of natural disasters off the East coast of America; and a woman who traveled through Italy, India and Indonesia to find self-fulfillment.  Both writers communicated the same reminder.

Life is filled with unexpected storms, hurricanes that veer off course, waves that swamp us, and forecasts that are wrong. We lose people we love, struggle through things like depression, job loss, financial hardship and illness. And yet, we can decide, in spite of these things, to find joy— we all hold the power and strength to complete ourselves whenever we decide use it.

Happiness is a choice.

I’m going with it.

14 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Liza that is EXACTLY it. That is the whole point of everything if you ask me. Fight for it, insist upon it and maintain it as if it were your life, because... it is :)

Jon Paul said...

Beautiful.

I agree: happiness is no accident. The more often I can remember that, the happier I find I am. :D

Piedmont Writer said...

Beautiful Liza. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes it's hard to find the happy and you have to dig deep but it's worth it.

glnroz said...

thanks for the info, I will check out this author,, but ya know what? You have been "posting" those thought processes awhile now, reckon? lol

Helen Ginger said...

I totally believe this. Not that I've achieved it, but am working on it. I have an aunt who has achieved it, though. I don't know that it was a conscious effort on her part, though. I think it's just who she is.

lbdiamond said...

Oooh, interesting post! Our perspective of life events definitely plays a role in how we manage stress and how we perceive joy. :D

Bish Denham said...

I think to not go with joy is to deny the Creator His/Her due. To not go with joy is to not love. Could there be anything sadder?

rae said...

Good post! I read Eat Pray Love thinking I'd hate it (too much hype) and ended up really liking it for messages like that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is really meaningful. If only we all lived with that same gratitude for life.

Robin said...

Love this post. Happiness is a choice. I also love it when the universe finds multiple ways of sending you the same message. I always know when that happens that it is REALLY IMPORTANT THAT I GET IT.

Btw, I love your new background. Gorgeous.

Ro Magnolia said...

Liza, I so often find myself popping over here to thank-you for a thoughtful comment that you left on my blog and then I get so caught up in reading your thought-provoking posts or so lost in your beautiful photography that I forget why I came over here in the first place! Today, however, your post almost seems to be a direct response to my own because it speaks to me so strongly of where I am at right now. Thank you for that and yes, thank you for your encouraging note on my own blog too. :)

Arlee Bird said...

This is absolutely my philosophy. I've known so many people who seem to measure their lives by all of the hurts and hardships they've had to face and they dwell on these and refuse to let go. I think we need to instead measure life by the good things we have now and the potential for the positive things we can have in the future. We can't change the past, we can only change the way we evaluate it.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Helen Ginger said...

Is that a new picture at the top of your blog? Or have I zipped past it before now? It's beautiful.

Simon C. Larter said...

Can I choose to be happy but still play the part of an alcoholic malcontent online? If so, maybe I could give that a go. :)