Happiness is a choice. There is nothing fancy or watershed about this simple truth. Just google the phrase–happiness is a choice–and you will find a garden of quotes on the subject.  Or read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, a memoir about the year she spent trying to understand happiness, or subscribe to her Moment of Happiness daily e-mail (like I just did.)

The point is that theories and how-to’s on happiness are abundant.

So why is it that so many people choose to brood?

Look, those of us who aren’t kids any more, who have done some living, get that much in life is beyond our control—loved ones die before their time, people can be stupid and cruel, and terrible things happen in the world, hurricanes and earthquakes and famine and war.  We who have lived also recognize acts of inexplicable grace. Case in point: this morning I was perusing 9/11 stories, this one about how seemingly inconsequential decisions spared many lives that crisp early autumn day. Like the harried Morgan Stanly executive who never took breaks but miraculously did during the exact moment in time one of the planes hit her office tower.

No one can rationalize this sort of thing. Good fortune can be just like bad fortune;  you can’t always make sense of it.

So we live. Really live. That’s our choice.

But what about the younger generation, like my beautiful girl Rebecca who seems acutely hardwired to feel the highs and lows of life. She’s only ten years old, too young to realize her sensitivity is a gift, too young to appreciate the subtle textures of life, too young, I think, to understand how to metaphorically fill her own glass. She is a kid, like many people I know, who see the world lacking. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that she is always grasping at that one elusive object or person she believes will make her happy that given day. A Pokeman card?  Pizza for breakfast and lunch? An eight-hour playdate?  Readers, in no way am I negating how losing her dad as a toddler affects her still, or the way she loves me and her family, the big and stable things in her life.

I want to tell you a secret I say to her the other morning when she wakes up grumpy for no reason, her hair jumbled with sleep knots. I whisper in her ear, “Happiness is a choice. This is the real secret to life.”

Does she get it?

Some days, some hours, yes. Sometimes no.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing her meet the day with an open smile, which is why, as her mom, I will do what I can to help her realize the choice is hers.

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