How to Choose Happiness Over Fear

Just saying you have the power to choose happiness over fear isn’t going to be enough to convince you. Luckily, the story of my cancer diagnosis is a special one, one that I think perfectly prefaces this week’s topic:

I was lucky enough to have my parents tell me the news of my diagnosis. I wasn’t in a doctors office, or told by a man I hardly know. I was in their kitchen. I was sitting down with them. And they were crying, understandably, because there is no easy way to tell your youngest child and only daughter that, at age 17 while the world still waited ahead of her, her life was in severe danger, and there was nothing they could do about it. It was a first for us all; me in having the opportunity and agency to take my life into my own hands, and them in having to admit for the first time that they could not control my life or my safety.

They said it clearly: “you have cancer” but the words were lost on me. I did understand, though, that the fight to survive was upon me. And that they were scared shitless. Being that I respected and admired them both so much, I knew immediately that it was my time to utilize all that they had taught me.

“Well, ok” I said to them. “We’re gonna do this. We’re going to fight it. But we’re not going to do it with fear or in the dark. We’re not going to be scared or avoid talking about the elephant in the room. We’re not going to cry or be mad. We’re going to go in, we’re going to do the treatment, we’re going to do whatever we have to do, and we’re going to stay happy and hopeful and together. We’re just going to get it done and make it as good of an experience as we can.”

It came down to the fact that not only did I not want to see them this way, but I didn’t want my fight against cancer to look like that conversation. It wasn’t how I wanted to feel during treatment and it wasn’t how I wanted people to talk to me about it. Thus, we set off together, my family and I, with a commitment to meet the darkness with light, the uncertainty with hope, and the fear with love and acceptance.

Mom and Dad having fun in wigs

There were nights when cancer and circumstance tested my resolve. There was physical pain. There was good news and bad news. There were breakdowns and breakthroughs. There were hours spent with my head in the toilet, my mother by my side. But that same night, just went my nausea started to subside, the sun rose through the bathroom window. There was always light to be found in the darkness, if only we would look for it, wait for it, and believe in it to find us eventually…

There is something I know for sure in this life: everything comes down to how badly you want it. The career you dream of comes down to how hard your willing to study to get it. The dress size you want comes down to how badly your willing to sweat for it. If you want the cupcake more, you’ll get the cupcake. If you want excuses more, you’ll get excuses. If you want absolutely anything, it all comes down to how badly you want it, and how hard your willing to work for it in every decision, in every single moment.

The same goes for things like peace and happiness. They are not things that comes along when we are least expecting. They are things we choose, from a deep seeded place within our souls. They are traits that we create and manifest outwardly regardless of the situation at hand, not ones that find us and strike us like the flu. (Coincidentally, as proof, you can be very happy and at peace while enduring the flu.) When we chose to create them and thus manifest them, we must be willing to accept the built-in life balances that come along to test our diligence.

These ‘tests’ are the daily struggles that come along and seem predestined to assess our worthiness. They are not intended to be cruel. They are humbling, we can be sure, but they are not malicious. They are simply life’s balancing system They are the proof of yin to the yang; they are scales and measures that attempt to restore the status quo to what it was or has been, and thus you to what you have been till now. If you attempt to change your life, fully expect these challenges. Fully expect the doughnuts at the office to look especially tempting. Wholly and readily expect critics to be especially cutting. Happily and willingly expect time and nature and friends and your own ego to test you to your brink. Because if at any point you are attempting to change your life and thus this world, in big or small ways, you will need to grow stronger through every little test along the way in order to make the shift. Tests are signs that your work is resulting in change, and thus you must press on.

A recent New York Times article cited that in writing our own life story, we can analyze and adjust our own feelings toward ourselves. In laying down on paper our previous actions, we can not only better understand our behaviors, but we can create an honest dialogue with ourselves about how and why we are who we are. Many people found that rewriting the story helped them to feel happier and more fulfilled.

The same goes for being the author of the yet-to-be-written. Taking the pen in your hand and, with consciousness, writing the next chapter is a choice. You must make the choice to write the story you would like to live. You must be willing to sit and listen to the call of the universe, to endure the test of writer’s block to unleash your greatest personal legend, as Paulo Coelho would say. You must fiercely choose to be the author from here on out, answering to the greatest potential within your being, and choosing to be at peace, choosing to be happy.

It truly is a choice, this life, this happiness, this peace. Things will never go ‘your way’ unless you make them do so. Unless you make the choice to create the reality you want, you will suffer at the hands of discontentment, and disconnection, writing in your own unhappiness and pretending the author was someone or something else.

Whether you’re the girl who wants to lose weight, or the girl that wants to be a singer, or the girl who wants to run for state office or fight racism or fly to space: You will get what you want most. What you want most will come to you. Through your actions and through your every thought, in the words that you speak to others and to yourself. In what you believe you are worthy of. In the way you hold yourself and the way that you treasure your dreams. You will get what you want. If you want more to live in fear, you will do so. But if you want most to live your dream, you will have it. The universe conspires, again as Coehlo says, to help us in our endeavors, whatever they may be.

And if you want to be happy, if you want to have peace, choose it. Live it, breathe it, never blame anyone else for your not having it. Create it, keep it, treasure it, and never stop choosing it. Then when you have it, you’ll know you alone earned the right to it.