Honestly, I am not really into the whole New Year’s Resolution business. I used to make goals for the New Year, but I find myself increasingly surprised by the direction life takes me…so, making goals for the year to come just seems crazy! But what doesn’t seem crazy to me is to regularly remind myself of the principles with which I choose to live my life–and to right my path toward these principles with an honest look at who I am, my strengths and my weaknesses.

But that process is deeply personal, and in some ways it is too abstract to share here. What I do want to share is my thoughts on what we all engage when we choose to embark on such a process…and it has everything to do with choice.

I feel like at some point in my life I thought that happiness, success, patience, etc. would come once something external happened in my life…and I think a lot of people feel this way if not always at least from time to time. I still find myself falling into this habit now and again as I let frustration, grief, anger get the best of me. But none of us is entitled to happiness…we have the right to work for it, to pursue relationships and activities that nurture it…but it is not just there without effort.

More and more I realize that happiness is a choice. It is a choice that I get to make every single day…when I choose to do a silly dance to make Esmé smile, or write because it makes me feel focused, or go to the gym for me, or show support to another family struggling with their child’s health. These choices make me happy. And I also can choose to turn away from the things and people that are not good for my soul.

My attempts to learn this began when I started practicing yoga about six years ago. But I am a slow learner. Truly, I am. But I know that was the beginning of something changing in me, the building of a new focus and strength. It was this path that brought me to meditate on the strong women in my life almost every day of my pregnancy: My grandmother who had a child (my mother) despite being told her heart wouldn’t be strong enough for labor…it was strong enough, in some ways just barely (in others it was always very strong). My paternal grandmother who wasn’t overly fond of me (likely because we are cut from the same determined cloth) until some of her last days…when she saw that, when the chips were down, I was there in ways she could not have imagined. My Great Aunt Mary who was filled with a sort of gravitational kindness and who promised to always be on my side because she was the “baby” of her family too…and we have “to look out for each other.”

And I know that all of this laid a foundation to make me strong enough to start life with Esmé…but that strength alone is not enough…and so I have slowly and steadily been cultivating something that is. In this last year my sense of gratitude has truly blossomed into something. And it has come from opening my eyes to what is increasingly all around me: People who take what life hands them, the pains, the joys, the loves, the skills, and try their very best to be happy and do some good with it all.

Sometimes I notice how Esmé has helped nurture this in others…some who have never met her in person but who have told me that they are different for knowing her. I have seen this change among so many of the people who know and love Ez, friends and family, who find joy in all new ways, who have become more dedicated to giving, and who have gained a whole new perspective on life.

I also find this wherever I look around us: So many of the medical team members we have met over the years give up holidays with family, work terribly long hours, and see some truly frightening and difficult things…some of them have also overcome their own struggles in order to offer children like Esmé the best care possible. I see it in the other parents I have met with medically fragile children–who find ways to celebrate their blessings, no matter how difficult things get.

So this year and the years to come I choose to focus on these people…to try to reflect back at them their strength, courage, and dedication. I choose to be grateful for my life, understanding that the pains that have brought me here are, in their way, blessings too. I choose to work on myself and to love myself even when I fall short.

I choose happiness.