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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Double, double

I try not to dwell on regret. It takes a lot of energy to dwell ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’; and really, it’s not going to help or make the least bit of difference in what really IS, right? Because you didn’t, and that is passed. So get over it. This isn’t about regret, though. Let’s talk about the gift of happiness.

Most of you who didn’t know me in high school probably don’t know that I had a second sister, a twin. Very few know that my sister died in a vehicle accident with a BAC of .0459. So literally, almost half of her blood was alcohol. Is that not amazing? Staggering. Not in a good wow-isn’t-that-wonderful sort of a way. No. But nonetheless amazing. You know what I believe? I think it’s my duty to employ double gratitude and double joie de vivre. You know, to make up for what she is missing out on.

I also lost my dad two years ago. It was a bit of out the blue, his passing, and turned our world upside down for a few months, as we dealt with his death and his belongings. His passing made me very sad because I had not had sufficient time with him in the last few years. Living in the places we do, it can be hard to get to others in off-the-beaten-path locations, too, if they don’t travel, too. As much as we would love to see every one of our friends and family every year, we have not yet had the good fortune to win a lottery, and work duties call. My dad did not always have the ability to see the glass half full; often times, he saw the glass not just empty but also why would anyone give him that sort of glass in the first place. He was one of the kindest people I know, but he had a gruffest exterior and didn’t always relate to others well. For him, too, I try to embrace the idea of living with Life is good, friends. Best part: once you reframe your thinking, you will set an excellent example for your kids to follow. Go out and find your ‘joie’ and embrace it with both arms and hands.extra gratitude and ‘Joie’.

Am I living up to that? Am I living and loving? Ah, that’s such a good question. Some days, I can’t see past what needs to be washed, and put away, and arranged, and organized. Some days I can’t see past getting the boys organized and doing something constructive. Some days, it’s all I can do just drop everyone off, get to work, do my thing, and then get home and sit and be for a few minutes. Thankfully, that is a rare, off day. Most days, I love what and what are around me. Most days I can go go go and do what needs to be done because I know I can do more. Most days I see the smile on my kids’ faces and just revel. Most days, I love what I am, where I am, and what is around me so much, that I don’t need more than that. I am ever so grateful for all that and more. Others? I need a reminder.

What is ‘joie de vivre’ anyway? What is a love of life, and how do we go about achieving it?

A couple of thoughts:

1. Embrace your reality. Accept what is. Know who you are, where you are and what you want. Recognize that the only one who can make you happy is you. The only one who can change your life is you. By taking responsibility for your own happiness, you gain control over what does and does not affect you and your frame of mind. It’s easy to blame the world and adversity if we are feeling miserable, but – news flash – you can’t control the world. You can, however, control your reactions to events. Focus on this: control what you can and abandon trying to control what you can’t is a key secret to happiness

2. Be serious about happiness. Aristotle makes the point that happiness has to be the ultimate purpose of life – how he defines happiness, however, is something beyond an unnatural high – it is not just enjoying life, but living well and taking your well-being seriously. Happy people are nicer to be with and ultimately achieve more in their lives. So be happy, and be more.

3. There is more than one kind of happiness – the right balance of the different types is essential. There is the kind of pleasure you get from a nice glass of wine and good company, and there is the kind of contentment you get from overcoming difficulty and achievements and satisfaction from the general direction your life is taking – beware the pursuit of just one kind of happiness. Both are equally important; a mix of the different types is what really results in profound happiness.

4. Happy people are grateful people. Focusing on what is missing in your life and what you don’t have is going to make you miserable. The grass is definitely not greener, trust me. Be grateful for all that you have – you are alive and you are blessed with many opportunities and advantages that many do not have. For most of us in the expat world, all we have to do is look around us, and we have visible reminders of what ‘more’ we have right outside our front gate. If it helps, writing in a gratitude journal can help you focus on what you do have. Take a few moments every day, and write 3 – 5 things that you appreciate about you, your life, your situation. Seeing in writing how great you are, how amazing your life is, how fantastic your kids are ... this is a good place to start.

5. Know this: Happier parents = happier kids. Don’t believe me? Kids are monkeys and sponges. They respond with like, and soak up the example(s) you are setting. Plus, if you have a better frame of mind, their negative know-it-all attitude can roll of your back a bit easier until they, too, see and follow your example. Give them more of a positive attitude and a happy frame of mind, and they will start to give back the same.

Life is good, friends. Best part: once you reframe your thinking, you will set an excellent example for your kids to follow. Go out and find your ‘joie’ and embrace it with both arms and hands.

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