Monday, July 20, 2015

Pursuit of Happiness

Thank you to my guest blogger today, Stacey Cohen Sturner. Stacey is a mom of two boys, one who has a peanut allergy and the other diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Not only does she have a real-life job working to expand opportunities for those who have developmental disabilities, but she is actively working to expand her children's health opportunities as well. If you or anyone you know is affected by Crohn's, you might be interested in attending this International Research Symposium on August 16th, which she is organizing. She also pens the blog, Curing JacksonI was fortunate to meet this dynamo through the Facebook group she started related to food allergies, Food Allergy Treatment Talk


62 Days of Happiness


Last year, there was a popular social media challenge, aptly titled “100 Happy Days.” The goal was simple – be happy 100 days in a row. We all want to be happy, right? Science isn’t so sure. It turns out that happiness takes a certain degree of effort… more for some than others. 

As part of the TODAY Show’s ongoing TV series, Summer Secrets of Happiness, reporter Maria Shriver recently asked, “Is happiness born or bred?” According to the segment, “One of the common denominators among the people they found say they CHOOSE to be happy.” The mission of the non-profit organization, Project Happiness, is aligned with this sentiment as well. It’s dedicated to empowering people with the resources to create greater happiness within themselves and the world. Reason being, happiness isn’t intrinsic to one’s welfare. It often depends on how you handle your day-to-day and what it throws at you. Relinquishing the desire to control everything and everybody. Letting life happen, the good and the bad.

I excitedly participated in the “100 Happy Days” project a year ago, almost exactly. On day one, I captured my oldest child blowing bubbles with the clever title, “Ready, Set, Blow!” On day two, my youngest child readied himself for his first day of camp ever. By day 22, our family had really embraced the idea of daily happiness and enjoyed a fun afternoon at the beach. It was truly eye opening how the act of seeking happiness brought happiness. We were happy!

It changed by day 34, the Fourth of July, which was recorded for posterity’s sake on my Facebook timeline with a photo of my little guy wearing a star cover-up and pushing a toy lawnmower (“Independence”). This was when my big boy was starting to exhibit signs of a significant medical condition. My display of photos and outward happiness naturally began to wane and felt more forced. Between days 34 and 41, he was becoming increasingly gaunt, lethargic and sickly. 

I pressed on, both publicly and privately, to prove to myself that happiness conquers all. I. Am. Happy. But the reality was quite the opposite. It became a regular struggle to project a positive outlook. Inside, I was falling apart. Even though doctors hadn’t yet put their fingers on a cause for my son’s ongoing illness, mother’s intuition had kicked into high gear and I knew that something was wrong.

Day 62, spent in San Diego for our summer vacation, was depicted by a photo of my youngest curiously watching a snail slide past him on the sidewalk (“Snail’s Pace). That day, I ultimately decided that I couldn’t carry on with the ruse any longer. It felt disingenuous. These weren’t happy days after all. Truth be told, they were among the darkest days of my life. There wasn’t a social experiment to express those feelings. So, I retreated.

Eighteen days later, my son was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 6-1/2. No photo, no post, no positivity. However, after a lot of soul searching and time to adjust to our “new normal,” happy days did manage to return again. Because I CHOOSE to be happy.

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