“Working in the ICU has taught me to appreciate each moment because you never know what tomorrow will bring. I’ve learned that life is too short to worry about mundane things. You have to live now and enjoy it while you can. If you want a good life, you have to choose to be happy. Know what I mean?”
Her words stung hotter than the sun on my back.
Condensation from the beer can dripped onto my chest. My free hand quickly wiped it away while I continued to keep the can pressed tightly against my lips.
She smoothed her loose strands of blond hair behind her ears and reached for the bowl of chips.
Her words still reverberating in my mind.
“If you want a good life, you have to choose to be happy.”
If only it was that simple.
I don’t choose to be angry or depressed or anxious.
No one does.
I don’t wake up and conscientiously make a decision to roll out on the wrong side of ugly.
It’s a societal misconception that people with mental illnesses can snap out of our moods and just be happy.
It just doesn’t work that way.
How my bipolar disorder wants to manifest itself, highs or lows, is completely out of my control.
However, how I respond to it is.
I can take my medications.
I can can attend my doctor’s appointments regularly.
I can reach out to friends and family.
And I can make choices that will help me feel happy.
I choose to write…
I choose to scrapbook…
I choose to walk to the park in super slow motion so that I can listen to my son giggle as he stops to drop stones into every sewer grate we come across…
I choose to sit in the sun and dig my bare feet into the cool grass…
I choose to tell people about the time when Shawn tried to use a 15% off coupon on a pair of flip flops that only cost a dollar…
I choose to eat children’s cereal for breakfast…
I do all of these and more because I choose to seek refuge from pain, to lessen the blow, to help me keep one foot moving in front of the other but I had to make them happen.
I can’t wait for something, anything to change the course of my sometimes tumultuous path.
My happiness and stability won’t come all the way to me without work.
And some days, working at it is really hard.
“Kim. Kim. Kim,” she said as she stood up from her chair.
I placed the beer can back on the table and cleared my throat, “Kell if I could be happy, I would be.”
She straightened her shorts and smiled.
“Wanna go and dip your legs into the pool? You don’t mind if your hoo haw shows from under your dress do you?”
We both laughed.
I spent the remainder of the baby shower kicking my legs back and forth in the water.
I chose to do so, because I knew it would make me feel happy.
Even if the moment was fleeting, it was good moment nonetheless.
I didn’t choose this, but I choose to fight it.