A client, musing over her life, told me, “Happiness is a choice.” She continued, thoughtfully, “Feeling unhappy should be a choice as well. But when I feel unhappy, I lose sight of any other choices.”

Which I think is a perfect description of what happens when life overwhelms us. We lose sight of our choices and can only perceive a dark tunnel, leading nowhere. The choices are still there, it is our perception that has changed. If you have ever felt depressed and had someone tell you that you will feel better eventually, you know how strongly despair can hold a person in its grip.

Desperation often feels like, “I could be happy, if only…” A list of conditions follows: the relationship you had hoped for, the job you wanted, the clean air, water, and soil you wish for the world.

In the face of the desperation I sometimes feel about all that is so terribly wrong with the world, I have to remind myself to look at the beauty in the world as well. It means learning to live with the paradox: I’m a member of the human race, which seems to be bent on destroying the world we live in by any means possible. I am also filled with wonder at how beautiful and precious life on earth is. Including human life in all its complexity.

Instead of losing myself in one side of the paradox, I choose to consciously stand in both sides. For me, the best antidote to despair is to go out into nature and stand, breathless, at the sight of fragile, beautiful things. Like spider webs in morning dew or tiny birds, fluttering through the bushes in the garden. And then return to the problems at hand, determined not to turn my face away.

Yes, happiness is a choice. We can choose to close our eyes and turn our face away. We can also choose to constantly remind ourselves of life’s beauty. We can choose to do all that is within the limits of our possibilities for the things we believe in.

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