The morning was cold and wearing, yet again, its heavy gray sweater of sky. I lugged my bags of recyclables out to my car in the rain, feeling a little cheated by the weather.
As I drove to the county’s recycling center, the sight of a little clump of leafless trees along the roadside sent a stab of disappointment through my middle. The colors are going to be gone, and we haven’t had one day of sunshine to see them in their glory, I thought, pouting.
Ordinarily I would have caught the direction my thoughts were traveling right there and gently steered them around. But just then, I happened to be passing the very spot in the road where, 19 years ago next month, my teenage son was killed when he lost control of his car and flew over the bank and into a tree.
Because nineteen years have passed, I’m no longer grieving, but the reminder of my son’s accident anchored the disappointment I had been feeling all morning. I relaxed into it a little, noticing how like the weather it was—heavy and gray, and accepting it as nothing more than psychic weather of my own, a little front of gloom that had floated into my morning.
But the difference between the weather outside and my own mood is that I could choose to blow my internal dreariness away. Regardless of what’s happening in the outside world, I get to choose how I will feel. So I asked myself my pet question: Why am I so happy now? And sure enough, answers starting flowing from my mind: My car was running so well, and I was so cozy in the warmth from its heater. It was Saturday, and I had two whole days to spend as I please. And even though I had lost my son, he was such a joy that just remembering him made me glad for all the years we got to spend together.
By the time I got to the recycling center at the park, I was awash with gratitude for the richness of my life. The rain was fine, the trees were breathtaking in their freshly washed beauty, and I was centered in my happiness and glad to alive.
That’s the beauty of practicing happiness. You know how to come back to it when gloom fronts move in. You let yourself breathe, you relax your face into a small smile, you entertain the grace of a saving question: Why am I so happy now? Why? Because I can be, and I choose it and embrace it as my most authentic state.