My mom said this to me once in a far less pleasant context, though it makes me laugh every time I think of it. When I told her about my first tattoo I’d hidden from her for 6 months, I amped it up like I was telling her I was pregnant. I finally said it was a tattoo, and she very tersely respond, “…well we all make choices, Mairead.” 10 years and 7 progressively larger tattoos later, I think she’s become more okay with the ink, but her words have stuck with me.
We all know miserable people, right? Those people that are always glass half empty. The world is out to get them, nothing goes their way, and lord knows it’s never their fault. Life isn’t fair to them, they’ve been dealt a shit hand, and OH MY GOD FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT UP?! I don’t know if I became more aware of these folks in 2017 or if my tolerance for self-pity is at an all-time low, but I found myself putting lots of energy into trying to help people who truly want nothing more than to feel bad for themselves, and in return, they want us all to feel bad for them too. It’s their choice to be miserable, but the rest of us fall for it like it’s our burden to fix it.
We make choices all day everyday. Do I skip breakfast? Am I listening to Jimmy Buffett or Five Finger Death Punch on the drive in (Writer’s Note: The latter puts you in a weird mood if you’re trying to work with students all day, FYI)? Do I eat my macro-calculated lunch or go out for something better/worse? Do I skip leg day? Do I eat the ground beef and rice for dinner or grab that box of mac & cheese in the back of the cabinet? One more episode of Black Mirror, or go to bed now?
And all of these choices—every single one of them—inform one thing: our attitude. If I allowed myself to get mad every time Otto the Orange Cat runs his 15-pound tush across my bed in a winded sprint at 5:30 AM, I’d be one miserable bitch. What we eat during the day, what we listen to, what we choose to do after work, it all informs how we act and how we carry ourselves. If spending time with people full of self-pity and self-loathing in 2017 taught me nothing else, it taught me the whole point I’m sharing here today: Every minute of every day, we make the choice to be happy or not.
Now this isn’t going to turn into a pollyanna, life-is-great-all-the-time kind of post. If you know me, you know that’s not my style and I think those people are fake AF. Life isn’t great all the time. People disappoint us. Things don’t go as planned. Tragedies happen. We cannot control what happens around us, but we can always control how we react to it.
Story time: Strongman Nationals this year in Vegas. Any of my teammates could have made it to the Arnold (the big dance in Strongman), but a few were more primed to go IMO. One in particular left no question in my mind—before we ever hit Vegas—that he’d qualify. Day 1, Event 3, he picked up a husafell stone he’d carried hundred of times, and instead of walking forward for max distance, he tipped over backwards at the start line. I was watching and still attest that he passed out, but whatever way you cut it, he earned 0 points in the most important event of the show. And He.Was.Pissed. But guess what? After a few minutes of legitimate yelling and cussing and throwing things, and a few hours of (what I’m sure was very awkward) tension in the room with his wife, he decided to show up on Day 2. He finished strong, was on the alternate list for the Arnold, and on December 29, he received his Arnold invite.
Had he allowed himself to stay mad, quit, and go home after this, guess who wouldn’t be prepping for the biggest show of his career as we speak? And this isn’t just a lesson for big occurrences. Do you let yourself stay mad after someone cuts you off on your way into work? Does a text from your ex put you in a tailspin for the rest of the week? Does one bad workout make you question why you’re into fitness to begin with? I’m not an idiot. Sometimes, the answer is yes. We let the little stuff become the big stuff.
So here it is. I’m not much for resolutions, but you’re hearing it here first: in 2018, I’m going to do my best to make happiness my first choice. No more letting molehills become mountains. My coach has told us repeatedly about the 180 rule: You have 180 seconds after an event to be in your feelings (good, bad, or ugly), then you move on to the next one. I’m not sure 3 minutes is always enough time, but it’s time to stop letting anything I cannot control be detrimental to my happiness. We make hundreds of choices everyday; why not make happiness the most important?