Among the many awesome Leslie Jordan tribute memes out there is this quote: “Happiness is a habit. It’s a choice. It’s something that you have to work for.”

It’s a quote that has made me stop and think a lot these past few weeks. In particular, “How do you choose happiness?”

For most of my adult life, the choice was obvious…and easy: I simply chose to live places that made me happy, surrounded by people who made me happy, doing what made me happy.

And that was a great way to choose. It made me successful, gave me some great friends and even greater loves. And it allowed this Texas boy to live in Boston, New Orleans and in the high desert of Taos, New Mexico.

I’m pretty sure I would have gone on choosing happiness that way forever.

If life hadn’t thrown me a curve ball.

And chosen otherwise.

You see, in the fall of 2018, I had to move my mother into assisted living. And, with that choice, came the very unpleasant but wholly necessary choice for me to move back into our family home in suburban Dallas.

All of a sudden, I was in a place I hated, surrounded by people I did not connect with, doing something I did not want to do.

I’m not gonna lie. For a few weeks, maybe months (my ex would likely say much longer!), I had myself a most unhappy pity party of one. Like Dusty Springfield in that old Pet Shop Boys song, I kept asking myself, “What have I done to deserve this?”

But, unhappiness isn’t any fun. It’s not healthy and, to me at least, it’s kinda boring. So, eventually, I pulled myself together and decided that, place, people, things be damned, I would be happy!

How did I do it?

Not by buying a pair of rose-colored glasses or practicing the power of positive thinking.

No. I did it by choosing to see happiness as an inside job. After an adult life, where the flow of happiness went outside-in, I chose to figure out a way for it to go inside-out.

I tapped into what some call god (or goddess or Buddha or….), but what I call the light of truth (a phrase I once heard in a meditation).

In my experience, it’s more like a pilot light than a light beam. It’s this never-ending, gentle, eternal flame that, I think, burns in each of us.

It is a light of peace, a light of grace and wisdom.

A light of happiness.

And the reason I love to call it the “light of truth” is that it is just that: True. As in our true nature.

It is who we are.

Inside.

Peaceful, graceful, wise, happy.

Always.

No matter whether you open your eyes every day to the epic Taos Mountain or the single, simple flower you see in the picture that goes with this post.

When you orient yourself from the inside-out of your inner pilot light, there is a subtle fragrance of happiness with everything you experience. It is the fragrance that comes, as Joseph Campbell would say, from being eternal beings having a temporal experience.

Now, to be clear, even though I know there is forever and always an inner pilot light of happiness within me, sometimes I can’t quite reach it.

Sometimes, the clouds of my mind obscure it.

No matter how hard I meditate on that inner pilot light.

No matter how hard I stretch to reach it.

And those times suck. Big time.

But that’s where, for me, the real wisdom of dear Leslie Jordan’s words come in. Because on those days where I can’t find my inner happiness, I know I’m going to come right back and work at it tomorrow.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll do it again the next day.

And the day after that.

Because that is my habit.

My choice.

My work.

And, most important, my truth.

The Practice of Being Alive is a collection of stories about getting through this thing called life.