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Charla Huber: I am not promoting toxic optimism, but I am promoting optimism

When we look for upsetting things, we find them.
Rather than get upset about the high price of gas, Charla Huber says she focused on finding ­happiness knowing she had two days' worth of gas before she needed to fill up, and gas prices might drop before then. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

I was flipping through a journal I’d ­purchased, and there was an entire page ­dedicated to the sentence “Happiness is wanting everything you have.”

I was drawn to it and read it a few times, each time a little bit more slowly. The six simple words had a strong impact on me.

It’s human nature to seek happiness by looking for items and changes that we need to make to improve our lives.

It’s easy to think of all the things we “need” to improve our lives — it takes some of the onus off us, and onto what we are lacking.

It’s easier to say: “I’d be happy if I had this, or I had access to that.”

I fall into this all the time, because there are many things that I want and think would make my life easier. There are many ­gadgets and trinkets I’ve purchased that, in fact, didn’t change my life — they just ­cluttered my home.

The magical part of the phrase is that it forces us to turn our focus off the external items we are wishing for, or other areas that are out of our control, and to turn the responsibility for happiness back to ­ourselves and our surroundings.

We have a lot of things going on that are disruptive to our lives. The ongoing ­COVID-19 pandemic and the new challenges of Omicron have affected many people’s health, social life, work and education. The pandemic has been tough, and anything else on top of it can seem to put us over the edge.

On my drive home today, I passed a gas station and saw the price was $1.69/litre. I took a double take in disbelief, thinking to myself how everything is getting out of control.

There are plenty of messed-up things that are happening in the world. When I Googled “Bad things happening in the world,” I found many depressing sites that focused on topics such as climate change, crime, slavery, war, abuse and racism.

When we look for upsetting things, we find them.

I don’t want to downplay terrible things happening in the world, or the fact that there are people who are far more deeply affected by these things than me. There are a lot of bad things happening and many ­people struggling immensely.

If you are living through a tragedy or a moment of trauma, it’s important to be there in the moment. If you’ve lost a loved one or are dealing with a family crisis or a personal struggle that’s halted your life, you will need to heal in your own time.

I am not promoting toxic optimism, but I am promoting optimism. If I want to follow the phrase “Happiness is wanting ­everything you have,” I can find happiness knowing I have two days of gas before I need to fill up. That allows me hope that gas prices might drop before then.

I also find comfort in acknowledging things that I cannot control. When I was in my 20s, I struggled with being adopted and not knowing anything about my ­biological family or my heritage. I had contacted many government agencies, had my ­adoption records opened, and called everywhere I could think of for answers. All of my efforts led nowhere.

I sat myself down and told myself that I needed to accept the possibility that I may never find out where I was from, and I needed to be OK with that. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

About 12 years later, I learned a little bit of information about my biological ­family, and even though I was left with many ­questions, I was grateful to have received the info I did, because I’d previously accepted that I would never know anything.

With all the roadblocks and speed bumps being thrown into our lives, we can focus on the frustration and inconvenience, or we can use the opportunity to refocus and evaluate what we have and how far we’ve come.