Mak­ing choices: Your hap­pi­ness is a choice that only you can con­trol

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - OPINION - By Maloey E. Jones Or­lando Sen­tinel Ed­i­to­rial Ad­vi­sory Board

It's of­ten said we're liv­ing in tur­bu­lent times, and that Amer­ica is be­com­ing more and more po­lar­ized. In my opin­ion, this has led to un­nec­es­sary anxiety within our so­ci­ety.

How of­ten to­day do we hun­ker down on our “side” of is­sues, and fail to re­al­ize that the peo­ple on the other “side” prob­a­bly have more in com­mon with us than not?

I re­mem­ber once af­ter a bat­tle in Viet­nam, we were search­ing the enemy dead for enemy doc­u­ments. I was go­ing through this one North Viet­namese army sol­dier's pock­ets when I found pic­tures and let­ters from back home, just like the ones I my­self car­ried. At that mo­ment he be­came — it's hard to ex­plain — not an “other” but a sort of brother; we were try­ing to kill each other, and had he been suc­cess­ful, those life­less eyes would've been mine.

Even though I should know bet­ter, I've per­sisted in be­ing an­gry at other peo­ple when their ac­tions didn't meet my ex­pec­ta­tions. Such anger is un­ful­fill­ing. It robs me of con­tent­ment and con­cen­trates my en­ergy on neg­a­tive thoughts and ac­tions. To­day's po­lar­iza­tion in our beloved coun­try all too of­ten in­fects my mood. In re­al­ity, I can't con­trol what goes on in the me­dia, the White House or the Krem­lin. What I can con­trol are my day-to-day choices.

Many peo­ple man­age to do this very well, and they have lived much harder lives, lives that I couldn't imag­ine sur­viv­ing, much less thriv­ing. They have one thing in com­mon: They don't blame oth­ers for their choices. They don't blame whites, blacks, Lati­nos, gays, re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists, the main­stream me­dia or Fox. They con­cern them­selves more with mak­ing good de­ci­sions, and less with the de­ci­sions of oth­ers.

Oth­ers, though, might feel their lives are given mean­ing when they can jeer at their de­trac­tors. They be­come more and more bit­ter and lead in­creas­ingly an­grier lives. The re­al­ity is, how­ever, that those Amer­i­cans on the other side of the po­lit­i­cal, racial, re­li­gious di­vide are more our sis­ters and broth­ers than sin­is­ter oth­ers.

Af­ter all, con­vinc­ing the “other side” that the pres­i­dent is the best man for these times, or con­versely that he's de­mean­ing to the Oval Of­fice, is not only un­likely, but ul­ti­mately un­ful­fill­ing. It's my opin­ion that if we find our­selves be­ing neg­a­tive, an­gry and bit­ter, we might want to stop try­ing to change the minds of oth­ers, and in­stead try chang­ing our own be­hav­ior.

I be­lieve it's past time we stopped think­ing of our fel­low Amer­i­cans as “oth­ers” and started think­ing of them as our sis­ters and broth­ers. Maloey E. Jones of Cler­mont served al­most 13 months in Viet­nam as a U.S. Marine.

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