The internet world is buzzing over an “America’s Got Talent” performance, where Jane Marczewski performs an original song:
Maczewski, who goes by “Nightbirde” as a performer, shared with the judges and audience the significant health challenges she’s experiencing, but concluded, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy.”
When I was 12, I decided to be happy. It was 2 years after my older brother Jeff committed suicide, we’d moved to a new place, my parents were virtually not talking to each other (please, couples, get therapy when you go through a crisis!), I was having anxiety attacks and emotional breakdowns in the middle of the school day that left me crying and unable to stop. I walked into Social Studies, dramatically threw down my Trapper Keeper binder, and announced to my friend Marla, “I’m MAD!”
With boredom, she looked up at me and said, “You’re always mad.”
It was a thunderbolt. I have no idea why. Probably it was more her boredom that affected me. I went home and scrawled in my Judy Blume Personal Diary (yes, I still have this diary, no, you cannot read it) all of my intentions about about being a happy person, including my 12 year old logic that if I acted mad all the time, then when I was really mad, no one would pay me any attention. And probably if I was mad all the time, no one would want to be around me. (Ha ha ha, followers of Q-Anon and Alex Jones refute that last point.)
It was one of the few intentions (good grades, behaving better, keeping my Trapper Keeper organized) that I actually kept. I’m still not very good at behaving.
But somehow, even if my intentions were more about how people would treat me, it served me well. It was my choice. It was a way of me taking power over my own life.
This is not to say that dealing with debilitating depression and anxiety can be solved by simply adjusting one’s attitude. Would that life and mental health were that simple!
Being mad, being outraged, though, can simply become an unthinking habit. A default. (Hey, unquestioned happiness rooted in privilege can also become a default. Question that, too.)
For most of us, there does come a moment when we are capable of making a choice. Rumination can feel familiar and comfortable. Being authentic is important. Facing reality is necessary.
But neither should we give up our own power to decide how we want to be without a fight.