I have a number of mantras, many of which I picked up when I needed a few words to guide me through shark infested waters. Let me share some with you.
Like “take responsibility for your own happiness,” told to a 20 year old miserable me, waiting to be saved. And realizing only I can save myself. When I am miserable (because misery happens), I know that I am the one who has to pick myself up off the floor and save myself each time. And I am the best person to save myself. And do. I recently did so when I suspected I had postpartum depression–no one told me I had it, no one held me and said they were worried about me. I woke up one day and realized I couldn’t take it anymore and I wouldn’t be alive for another month. So I picked up the phone and started calling my doctors. I kept calling until I got a return call.
Or “find lessons,” told to me when I was recovering from stroke. Without lessons, stupid things like having a stroke at the age of thirty-three are just…stupid and meaningless. I searched for lessons and learned them. I learned about myself. I learned who my friends were. I learned how to come back from adversity. I learned what was really important to me in life. My writing.
Or “have no regrets,” told to me when I was suffering heartbreak and wondering where to go from there. I was twenty-four. I was reeling from a engagement that had been called off. I was without a compass. And then a good friend told me, “Whatever you do, have no regrets.” And it was an amazing mantra that dictated my behavior through very tough times. And it still does. It helps me keep my head high and helps me be healthy and make good choices. No regrets.
Or “fuck it,” when I need to let go of all rules and go for it. (I realize that “fuck it” could be in direct conflict with “have no regrets”–but really, it is a subset of “have no regrets”). This one? This one helps me have a little fun. It helps me explore. It helps me get unstuck.
Or “if there are two people in a situation, it’s best if both can be happy. but if only one can be happy, let the happy one be you.” My mother-in-law told me this, many times. She knew I had a habit of prioritizing others over myself. This one gives me permission to choose myself.
And now, “being happy *anyway* is the biggest middle finger to adversity.” When the shit hits the fan, and all seems lost, hold onto your happiness. Even if you don’t even have an ounce of happiness, if you just have a fraction. Hold onto it. And grow it. Ride some slides at a playground. Swing on the swings. Eat your favorite food. Breathe the air. Maybe it’s only 30 seconds, but that’s 30 seconds that adversity did not take away from you. Be happy. As much as you can, in the face of adversity. Adversity wants you to crumble and die–it wants you to suffer and die slowly. It cannot win.