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“You are responsible for your own happiness! – Life is what you make it!” 

There was a time in my life when the above quote really annoyed me. I used to think that how can one be happy when life often seems so incomplete and unfair. Then one day I had an encounter with a remarkable young lady that changed everything. 

That quote then began to make sense.  

Yes, indeed happiness is a choice. I choose happiness every night before I go to sleep, and I choose happiness every morning when I awake. 

It was such a privilege meeting this young woman named Rebbeca, she was 32 years old.  Rebbeca had terminal cancer, in fact when I met her, she had only a short time to live. She had been battling the disease since age 26. She told me this:- 

“Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I don’t remember a time when I was completely content. I was always anxious about something or the other, I was particularly most anxious about my future, there were so many things that I wanted to accomplish, money, marriage, kids, a house, going places, so on and so forth, I was determined to enjoy my life” 

“Getting cancer was never part of my plan, so when I was first diagnosed with the illness, I was so angry, my first thought was, “I don’t deserve this, I have not done anything with my life, I have not lived yet!”  

“The first chemotherapy was successful, but there was always the possibility of the disease returning, so I was still very angry”.  

“One day I expressed my anger to my therapist. She listened attentively then asked me what I wanted most in my life, I said, I want to live, I want happiness, I just want to be happy like everyone else” 

“What is stopping you, you’re in remission now, look at it this way, you’ve been given a second chance, decide to be happy” She asked me. 

“Decide to be happy? It’s not that simple, I told her” 

“She asked why was it not that simple and I didn’t really have the answer”. 

“My therapist continued, Let me tell  you, marriage, kids, house, and the rest,  like most people, I have them and I count my blessings every day, but I can assure you, they’re not the true source of real happiness, real happiness  comes when you begin to appreciate life for what it is” 

“She asked me, what are you thankful for right now? I drew blank, she seemed surprised, then she asked me, are you not thankful to be alive? you’ve beaten cancer, some people don’t get this far”. 

“I answered, Well yes, of course, I’m thankful, but really I was thinking I’ve beaten it for now”! 

“It was an interesting afternoon before I left her office, she presented me with one of those notebooks with a pen attached to it. My next appointment was in two weeks, she told me to write down all the things that I was grateful for before bed, and again when I wake up in the morning. I was to bring the notebook on my next visit, she told me we will discuss the contents”. 

“I did not bother to write anything the first few days, yes I was thankful to be alive, but I still felt robbed, it was unfair, I’ve always tried to be a good person, I did not deserve this illness.” 

“I didn’t want to return to the surgery with an empty notebook, so I started writing about random things at first, but each time tears will roll down my face, somehow I found the crying therapeutic, I noticed that I would fell asleep effortlessly and woke up refreshed”.   

“So, I carried on writing.  I bought my own gratitude journal. Within a short period of time, my whole outlook on life changed. I’m not a religious person but I felt something higher than me was guiding me. I remember one night I fell asleep listening to the rhythm of my heartbeats, until that time, I’ve never even thought about my heart, let alone how its beats, I was in awe, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that night”. 

“In order to have something to write about every night I became conscious of all my activities, all my conversation, I felt every moment must count, time with my parents, time with friends and work colleagues. I began to appreciate many things in my life and around me. I basically took time to smell the roses, as cliché as it may sound but I was happy, I can’t explain it but I felt happiness. My anger subsided and complaining became non-existent”. 

“I did make plans for the future, but I lived for the moment and it was amazing”. 

“So when I was told five years later that, the disease has returned, my first emotion was gratitude, I was so grateful for the last five years, yes I was sad, but I was not angry. I remember thinking I’m grateful for the second chance”. 

“I chose to be happy every day for five good years and it has served me well”. she told me”. 

Rebbeca died less than two weeks after my conversation with her.   

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens, but many a time we forget this fundamental truth and so we misuse our time and we miss the seasons, as such we often feel unfilled and incomplete. When our time has been used up and the seasons ends, we look back and feel we have missed something, this is when we feel robbed. 

So really, it is not how long we lived, but how we lived. 

Thank you for Reading. 

AmaSerwaa x 

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