“It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world!”

– Brittany Maynard, age 29

As I read the story about Brittany Maynard, the young woman with a terminal illness who voluntarily ended her life this past weekend, this quotation from her obituary leapt out at me.  The sentiment is so simple, and so beautiful.  Appreciate life. Give thanks. Find happiness. Change your thoughts. Change your world.

One of the things that constantly amazes me about my daughter is her pure happiness.  Every day she allows the simplest of things to make her happy.  Something as simple as the lid for a cardboard box is enough to excite her.  Yes, it is a common joke among parents, why buy the toy when the box is enough. But I think there is an important message there.  Kids don’t need things to be happy.  Likewise, we as adults shouldn’t need things to be happy.  My daughter is happiest when both her father and I are in the room with her.  She enjoys having experiences with us.  She doesn’t care if we’re playing with trains or stuffed animals or coasters, she cares if we’re playing with her.  She is happiest when she is actually living and experiencing her life.

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I’m learning a lot about appreciating life from my daughter.  I’m learning to simplify.  I’m learning to notice the less obvious, to take my time, to laugh at myself.  I’m learning that while it’s ok to be upset for a minute when something makes you angry (it might even be ok to scream about it), it’s really not worth dwelling on because there might be something better just around the corner.  I’m learning that it’s the people, not the things, in your life that give it meaning.

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I’ve also learned this, happiness can be a choice. It is possible, when confronted with negativity, and tough situations, to chose to be happy despite it all. It’s not easy. I admit that. It requires actively working to push the negative aside.  It is not a passive way to live life.  That is the beauty of it though.  Choosing to be happy requires you to engage.  It requires you to look for reasons and motivations.  Choosing to be happy ultimately requires you to appreciate your life.

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This is totally and completely cheesey, but it’s true.  My daughter has shown me just how amazing and beautiful life is.  Bringing her into this world was a difficult struggle.  There were moments when I didn’t know if I would get to meet her, these moments taught me how fragile we are.  But then in the end she arrived healthier and stronger than I could have imagined, showing me that we are also stronger than we realize.

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