Thanksgiving is HERE. I know this because the grocery stores are packed, the shelves are nearly empty, and there’s a giant ball of meat in my fridge. This is my THIRD Thanksgiving far, far away from home. My traditions are slowly changing from turkey and pork shredded in mojo, rice and beans, maduros, and Stove Top (so on and so forth) to the traditional Turkey and stuffing (which I didn’t know was anything BUT Stove Top until I got married). But one thing remains the same, I am INCREDIBLY blessed. And at the risk of becoming extremely personal (which isn’t really my thing), I’d like to share just a few of my thoughts, with you.
The “pursuit of happiness” can take one down several paths. For some, it is a very, very long journey. To others, it seems to come simply. Some find happiness through companionship, things, and religion. Then there are those that are never quite fulfilled, and not quite, happy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it is that happiness is a choice. It’s not something that you find in a spouse, friend, pair of shoes, or even religion. It is through the spirit of being grateful for those things that you actively choose to be happy.
But gratitude is more than a feeling that emanates happiness, it is an action. It is nearly impossible to truly appreciate something or someone without action. Gratitude for your family comes through even the simplest acts of love. Gratitude for knowledge comes through the pursuit of education. When I decided to find things that I was grateful for and to appreciate them through action, I actively chose to be happy. So here is a short list of some things through which I have “found” happiness in my life.
First, I’m so grateful for God and Christ. I’m not quite sure that I don’t know where I’d be or even that I’d be in a “bad” place if I didn’t know them, because I know many great people that do not believe the same things I do. But I do know this, that I have been overwhelmingly fulfilled, continually guided, and have found incredible blessings because I have chosen to seek them in my life. Because I am grateful for them, I will continually try my best to be a good person and to follow the principles that I’ve learned from their example.
Second, I am grateful for family. My family is perfectly imperfect and unbelievably wonderful. Plus, they’re mine. I’m so happy that they’re mine for eternity. First there’s my husband, who allows himself, daily, to be wrapped around my little’s finger. I don’t know if there’s anything this man wont do for her. It’s tough to find a supportive husband (that would drop his job and relocate to the opposite side of the country so that his wife can further her education AND make her a peanut butter sandwich and sliced red peppers to put in her super cool lunch box EVERY day while she was pregnant). It’s also tough to find a hands-on type of father, the kind that reads books, feeds, gives baths, and plays ALL day long with his little. I found a two-in-one.
Then there are my littles (both my puppy-baby and my baby-baby). I’ll share my pregnancy and labor story eventually (maybe never) but in short, it was a wild ride. This alone makes me increasingly grateful that she exists and that I have the ability to be with her. I live to see her face of discovery and to hear her laugh. I am SO grateful for the moments I have with her, especially the ones where I bribe her to sit next to me with a bowl of popcorn (don’t judge me, have you ever had to try to get an overly independent toddler to snuggle? Popcorn works). Because I am grateful for her, I will do everything in my power to make sure she has every opportunity she needs to improve, to love, to be a good person, and to succeed.
Then there are my parents. My mother is unbelievably selfless and my father has a heart of gold. They’re both such incredible examples of pure love, patience, and service. They are always, I mean ALWAYS, there for me. They love unconditionally. I know that no matter where I am or what I ever might need (and most times want), my parents would be at my doorstep at a moment’s notice when I need them and they’d drain themselves and every resource that they have JUST to make sure I am happy. They taught me how to love, how to serve, and most importantly, that “I belong”. They’ve sacrificed nearly everything for me. My mom gave up a full scholarship to law school to be there for my sisters and I. My father worked countless hours, in any job that he could, so that she could and so that he could provide for us.Meanwhile he still always had the time for bike rides, ice cream, and to paint our nails. Because of their love, I will stop at nothing to make sure their sacrifices were not in vain and that I might give them a return on their investment.
I am also double blessed with two crazy sisters. I’m smack in the middle (three girls, this is why my father has three stents in his heart already). These two were my best friends in heaven. We’ve loved, we’ve fought, but most importantly, we’ve laughed so much together. I would do nearly anything for these two (and I say “nearly” because we’ve had some interesting dares in our lifetime).
Then there’s my crazy extended family that I love so much. I have had some of the wildest memories with these crazy Cubans. From flaming boats to almost getting kicked out of Disney World because our water fights can grow somewhat intense.
P.S. I have 17 of the greatest nieces and nephews anyone could have. They all have such a great sense of humor and they’re so loyal to each other. I’m one of those anomalies that was given great in-laws. Especially my sister-in-laws that have been so extremely supportive of me and have adopted meas their little sister. Strike the “in-law”, they’re my sisters.
I also have been undeniably blessed with good friends that love my little like she’s their own and who would do anything for me. They are loyal, fun, and unbelievably supportive. They have become my sisters and I would do anything for them. Because I’m grateful for them I will stop at nothing to be there for them through the good and the bad.
I’m also grateful to live in a country that provides so many freedoms. I’m so grateful that my parents immigrated from Cuba so many years ago so that I could experience all the great things America has to offer. Because I am grateful for this “land of opportunity” I will take advantage of every opportunity it has to offer.
I am thankful for knowledge, I will never stop learning. I refuse. That’s why I started law school, it’s why I love to read, it’s why I love to adventure and explore. I am grateful for parking spaces, mint lemonades, sunny days, the ocean, shoe sales, and when I open a pack of Starburst and find it’s full of my favorite color.
Some days it’s difficult to choose to be happy. Sometimes it’s hard to find things to be grateful for. But I know that when you sit down and start to think about what you have, and even more so, when you try to bring happiness to others, that’s when it becomes much easier to choose to be happy. It’s through this that even those that appear to have nothing, and I mean, really, nothing, are still full of love and joy.
So I leave you with three simple challenges. One that inspired me a long time ago. Take a lifesaver mint and put it in your mouth and without chewing it, list everything you’re thankful for from family down to parking spaces. You can do it as you pray and express gratitude to God. Second, find ways to develop an action of gratitude for those things. And last, try to make someone else happy whether they’re a stranger, friend, or family. I promise that you’ll “find” that choosing to be happy will become much simpler and you’ll find yourself overwhelmingly fulfilled.