Why does being happy have to be such a brave choice?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the choices we make as adults and how much they differ from the way children make choices. If a child is in a situation that doesn’t make them happy, they change it. They try and find a way out and they change it. But as adults we seem to struggle with that.

I was reading about Caitlyn Jenner (previously known as Bruce Jenner) and the choice he made to become a she and the struggle she went through. She’s come out the other side now and is so much happier. But why was it so difficult to do something that would make her so happy?

I watched two Indian movies this week which were both very powerful in their own way (but of course with all the melodrama of a typical Bollywood movie). Dil Dhadakne Do and Hamari Adhuri Kahani. DDD is about an affluent dysfunctional Panjabi family who invite all their friends on a cruise for their 30th wedding anniversary. The couple “celebrating” their anniversary have a tainted marriage, the daughter who has built a highly successful business is in a very unhappy marriage and the son doesn’t think he’s good enough to take over his father’s company and is trying to find his place in the world. While it was hilarious and had us all laughing out loud, there were a lot of important underlying points. Even in today’s day and age, divorce is still such a taboo subject in our community. Parents worry so much about what people will say that they often force co-erce their children into getting married or staying in an unhappy marriage. Priyanka Chopra who plays Ayesha, the daughter, can build a highly successful travel business that ranks No.2 in India but struggles to make her voice heard.

The second movie HAK is important for different reasons. It’s a story of Vasudha (Vidya Balan) who’s values around marriage are so deeply embedded in her being that she allows her husband to claim possession over her, even when she is deeply unhappy.

As with most Bollywood movies, realisation dawns around the 2hr 15min mark and then you see the change. I’m so glad that Bollywood is starting to produce movies that will hopefully open up the mind’s of many Indian people. When I chose to leave an unhappy situation, many people called me brave and courageous and in some ways I agree, it was one of the bravest choices I’ve ever had to make but I do often wonder why I need to be brave to be happy? Surely being happy should be our natural stance? So what makes us all, for the most part, stick with the status quo?

I often see memes that say things like “Happiness comes from being grateful for what you have” and while that’s true, sometimes you can still be grateful but not happy with the situation. And not being happy doesn’t mean we’re ungrateful, it just means we need to change our situation.

All the world’s most successful people got to where they are because they refused to accept less than they believed they were worth. And I’m not just talking monetary terms. It could be Sir Edmund Hillary who never gave up until he got to the top of Everest. It could be Christina Noble who wouldn’t give up until she got what she wanted for the street kids in Vietnam and Mongolia. They got to where they wanted to be by making choices to do things that brought them joy and gave their lives value.

Children choose happiness all the time! When did we start forgetting to do that? When did we become so afraid of being judged? And ridiculed? What’s more important than being happy?

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RIP Nelson Mandela

As I was watching Nelson Mandela’s funeral today, a few things occurred to me. I’m sure he realised how important he was and how much he was loved and respected. I’ve always thought it’s really important to let a person know how you feel about them and the impact they have had on your life. Without trying to sound morbid, you never want it to be too late and regret not telling them.

The other thing that crossed my mind was that here is this amazing man who sacrificed so much of himself and his family for his country. I wondered, would he have been the man he was if he hadn’t gone to prison? He was of course always a man of courage and honour. He was jailed because he was fighting for the end of apartheid and the division of blacks and whites in South Africa. His reason for being put in jail was unjust in the first place. But was it 27 years in an African jail that spurred him on to go out there, become the first South African black president and make such a difference? Would he have been the accomplished man that he was if he hadn’t been through those 27 horrendous years? Does the end justify the means?

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So often when something we perceive as negative happens to us, we sit and brood on it. We feel sorry for ourselves, we whine and complain. We could of course be a lot worse off but we often don’t see that. It’s so easy to drown in a pool of self pity until we have someone reach down and help us out of it.

Here is a man who had 27 of his 95 years taken from him and he still made a difference. Even in his passing he is put on a pedestal and honoured. He didn’t let a 27 year speed bump stop him from achieving what he was destined to do. So today I say RIP Tata Madiba. I will remember you not just for the difference you made in the lives of millions of South Africans but for your sheer determination and will to let no obstacle stand in your way.

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Some of my favourite quotes by Mandela:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Inspiring Mama Series: Emma Jackson

Emma Jackson is 27 and a single mum to Ethan-James who is 20 months old. She worked in a busy day nursery after leaving school in 2002 until 2007. She then worked at a plant hire company until 2009 and then in Wales until 2010. On the 3rd of November 2010 she had a life changing accident which resulted in a 5 week hospital stay. She had 10 operations in 7 days and has had 6 more since. It took the emergency services 1 hour and 35 minutes to get her out of her car which had dropped down a 30ft. embankment. She’s been left with scars for life as well as mobility issues. But she hasn’t let any of this stop her going after what she wants. She is one brave mama!

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NM: You’ve been through quite a bit in the last few years and you’re still fairly young. Was wanting a child something you always had in mind or something you realised after your accident?

EJ: I have always wanted children but timescale wise it wasn’t something I could pinpoint. I was told I was infertile in 2005 and this was heartbreaking as I always dreamed of being a mum. After the accident I realised how much we take for granted and how short life is so I set about fertility treatments and ways to become a parent as a single mum.

NM: Being a single parent is a tough job but you took it on voluntarily. What motivates you?

EJ: Being a single mum is very hard work but every moment, every smile, giggle and cuddle is so rewarding. I don’t see it as a challenge as I’ve never known anything different.

NM: What method did you choose to have your son, Ethan-James? And why?

EJ: The method I chose to have my son was artificial insemination using donor sperm. I chose this way over adoption, fostering, etc. as I wanted to carry my own child and be the biological mother.

NM: Were there any risks with conceiving Ethan-James so soon after the accident? You were young and could have possibly waited a little longer?

EJ: No, no risks but my fertility specialist said 25 (age) was cutting it if I wanted to try as I needed medications, etc. But operations did have to wait till I had him.

NM: Does the National Health Service (in the UK) cover artificial insemination? I’m guessing it’s quite an expensive process?

EJ: The NHS in my area didn’t. I don’t know if they still don’t or do. IVF, you get 3 cycles but again not in our area. You have to go out of area. I did mine privately.

NM: For those who are considering having a baby without a partner, what advice would you give them?

EJ: If you are considering becoming a parent without a partner I would say the most important things are to have good family and friends for support. I have amazing friends and family. Think long and hard about the financial part. Also being the baby’s sole carer, you don’t get a day off if you’re tired or ill. You still have to look after them 100%, there’s no going to bed to recover, etc. whilst the other half helps out.

For more information on artificial insemination and what it involves, click here.