In April, I decided to get support from the WordPress blogging community by joining the 2014 class of Blogging 201. I had already established my blog 16 months ago, but I wanted feedback from other bloggers on how I can improve my own blog for readers to access and enjoy. It is from this experience that I met blogger Merel of Happiness is a Choice.
I’m pleased Merel agreed to write a post for my blog on how to find happiness. I now leave you in capable hands!
Source: Happiness is a Choice
Recently, I got a new tattoo. It’s the seventh one I’ve gotten over a period of almost 10 years. It’s true what they say: once you get the first one, it’s addictive.
What makes this tattoo special is that it’s been inspired by everything that’s happened in my life in the last year or so. A time in which I have come into my skin more and more, found my purpose and my outlet. I have discovered almost completely who I want to be, what I want to do and whom I want to do it with. Coming from a place of living on autopilot for as long as I could remember, this was huge.
I decided to live by choice.
Merel’s new tattoo
Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present.
– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
I remember very vividly when it happened. I was in Surinam on a three-month internship with three other classmates. One early morning, we were supposed to train with a group of dancers we’d gone out with the night before. We were hungover, tired and the heat was not helping at all. Dragging our butts to the studio was the easiest thing we had to do that day, I learned soon enough. But, whilst dragging myself to the studio something happened. I ran the last couple of meters to the door, jumped through it and yelled “tadadada tadaaaaa”, landing in a Superman-esque pose – one fist in the air with the other on my side. I didn’t think about it, I hadn’t prepared to do it; I just felt like it in the moment so I did it.
For the first time in years, I didn’t care about what anyone thought of me. I liked me.
Little did I know, there were 15+ break-dancers lying on the floor in the middle of a meditation session led by a big, scary looking man who looked at me like I was completely nuts. The guys on the floor started laughing, the girls behind me were mortified. How could I have made such a big fool of myself and, indirectly, them? One of them whispered, “Oh My God, don’t you care at all what these guys think of you?!” I looked at her in surprise, why would I care? They didn’t know me; I felt like doing the Superman move so I did it.
We joined in the meditation and all I could do was smile. I felt free. For the first time in years, I didn’t care about what anyone thought of me. I liked me.
I fell in love with myself and I decided to never go back. I would never change who I was again, not for anyone. I need to be liked by me.
I decided, right then and there, that I would never go back to the girl I was. See, I was in a relationship at the time where I loved him so much, I did everything to keep him around. I had friends I wanted to stay friends with forever. I had lost many friends when I was younger so I was mortified of losing these, too. It made me change from an outgoing, fun loving, and confident girl to someone who didn’t have an opinion, didn’t have control and didn’t really live. All because I was scared. I was scared to be left behind by the people I loved.
I had intense feelings of both joy and sorrow; but I had feelings. Not because someone told me I should be having them, but because I was really living for the first time.
But on that glorious, hot day in Surinam, something changed. I changed. I fell in love with myself and I decided to never go back. I would never change who I was again, not for anyone. If you don’t like who I am, tough luck. Move along. I don’t need to be liked by you. I need to be liked by me.
What happened in the years after that internship was amazing. I felt like I had woken up, like I had been living in a fishbowl that was now shattered. I had intense feelings of both joy and sorrow; but I had feelings. Not because someone told me I should be having them, but because I was living. I was really living, for the first time. Ever. I was 23 at the time; I still wonder sometimes what happened in my life up to that point. I never really lived! Suddenly, I noticed I had thoughts. I remember one night sitting outside looking at the stars and saying out loud to myself, ‘Geesh, I never noticed thinking so much. Did I always think this much or is this new?!’
Question everything is my motto these days.
I wonder, as well, what would have become of me if it hadn’t happened, but I’d really rather not think about that. I’d probably be stuck somewhere with a baby by a man I loved so much I didn’t want to lose, but who I could never be the real me with. I’m glad I chose to get out of that relationship as soon as I could. I was no longer scared to lose him, because I had found myself. That was really all I needed.
Living by choice means to look at yourself and tweak. Always be a work in progress.
So what does it mean, living by choice? Like Tolle says, it implies a lot of consciousness. It implies at being able to look at yourself from a distance and figure out why you do the things you do, why you think the things you think and why you feel the way you feel. “Question everything” is my motto these days. You’d be surprised how many thoughts and habits that you have are based on nothing more than what you have been taught by society and your surroundings. Thoughts you are supposed to have, behavior you are told to display because of anything ranging from ethnicity, sex, career, you name it. Society expects us to live up to standards we haven’t created for ourselves, and the unconscious try their whole lives to live up to these expectations simply because they are unaware of other options.
I choose to be happy, to do things that make me happy and to surround myself with people who encourage my happiness.
Living by choice means to look at yourself and tweak. Always be a work in progress. There will always be thoughts and habits you don’t like or that just don’t work for you, and you can change them. Once you notice them, disidentify from them and find a better option that does work for you. You can change them. It’s not easy, not at all, but it is possible. It’s very possible and it’s very worth it, too. At least, it was for me.
These days, I am in charge of how I feel. I can select my thoughts and choose to have better ones. I no longer talk down to myself because I was able to disidentify from doing that. It served me no purpose, so why continue? These days, I am in charge of how I feel. I choose to be in love with everything and everyone around me, because love is at the root of all that is beautiful. I choose to be happy, to do things that make me happy and to surround myself with people who encourage my happiness. I choose not to identify or participate in anything that doesn’t feel right. I choose to see beauty, everywhere, and to make a conscious effort to look for it when it is hard to find.
Being in control of the mind – that is, being able to select one thought over another – is only part of the solution. It starts with choice and it ends with choice.
So I got a feather tattooed on my inner right arm. I got a feather surrounded by flowers, berries and color because this will always remind me to look for the beauty and the lightness in life. Underneath the feathers rest the words “what we choose, we become.” I know, sounds like what Buddha said but it’s not what Buddha said. I changed it on purpose. Where I agree completely with Buddha’s “what we think, we become” I felt it wasn’t complete. Being in control of the mind – that is, being able to select one thought over another – is only part of the solution. It starts with choice and it ends with choice. First, you have to choose to become aware, become conscious. Then, you can choose what you want to be. Do you want to be happy? Choose it. It really is as simple as that.
Happiness is a choice.
Funnily enough, Merel and I were surprised when this blog post was written how we’ve had similar experiences with finding happiness abroad (my first experience was travelling to Italy alone in 2004), our tattoos (we both now have 7, the most recent one we both got are inspirational quotes about finding yourself), growing up as a Third Culture Kid (read about my own experiences here).
The 7th tattoo, a quote I got on my arm July 2013
Merel’s blog focuses on bringing awareness about achieving happinesss through day-to-day topics, to help people become more aware of why we do what we do and to bring a different perspective to the table. You can read more about her experiences through her blog by clicking here.
Many thanks again to Merel for sharing your experiences with us!