"If you want to be happy, be."
The first time I read this quote, I laughed uncontrollably. I do believe I might even have cried a little bit. It was an inappropriately mirthful moment, and I was incredibly glad I was home alone at the time.
But why? It actually took me a while to think through the odd response to what would be, on any other day, just another quote. But when I really sat down and thought through my awkward fit of laugher, I realized that I was amused because a part of my mind immediately recognized that this is what I really have to master in my own life. It is such a simple idea. It is such a terrifying idea.
Are we really so supremely in control that we can decide, despite circumstances, to simply be happy? My immediate inclination is to say no. Absolutely not! Human beings are reactionary. Aren't we?
I thought about this quote as I drove home in the rain tonight. I was heading back from a visit with one of the most resilient, incredible people I know. I've been friend with her since we were about eight years old. Back then, of course, life involved play sets, recess, jumping, whooping, laughing at nothing. As the years have gone on, things have gotten harder, but especially for her.
I spend so much time marveling at your strength, Shreya. So few of us could face everyday unhealthy, overly stressed, under-appreciated and still have the strength to smile, to listen, to care. Your gift for truly looking at others and seeing them, not the version of themselves they want you to see, but the one that's actually there, is beautiful and potent beyond anything your teachers could give you. That you are still happy in the midst of constant struggle reminds me, everyday, what I should aspire toward.
I complain too often. It is probably one of the things about myself that I notice the least and detest the most. My life is, to be frank, just peachy. What do I have to complain over? To gripe and bitch and worry about? The answer to that question: pretty much nothing. But I do. And yet, I see these incredible people around me, Shreya and others, who face life head-on each day and decide - actually decide! - that happy is what they want to be, therefore what they are going to be.
When asked who inspires me, I often answer Tenzin Gyatso, Allen Ginsberg, Harvey Milk, or Alice Walker. Yes, these people are inspirations. Yes, they are teachers. Yes, their lessons should be treasured, examined, embraced.
But there is a different kind of hero. There are heroes that exist every day, everywhere. They are men and women, boys and girls, kids and adults that decide, regardless of the mess called living, that they are going to smile & breathe, and - even - be there for the rest of us, who haven't figured it out yet.
May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.