The topic I chose for the letter J was :”Joy of life.” Sometimes I have to admit that I get joy mixed up with being thankful. The two are different but so intertwined in my life, that I rarely feel one without the other.
Most mornings as a child I was awakened by one of my parents calling out, “Rise and Shine!” (I know my mom and dad had coffee before they woke us up but I never thought about the head-start they had on us kids!) From there we went to breakfast where everyone talked about how they slept, the events of the day or something funny.
Nevertheless rising and shining stuck with me. Later when I attended nursing school and shared a common bathroom with 10-12 other young women in various stages of wakening, I was surprised to find my “Good morning!” greetings were greeted with much less enthusiasm than I was accustomed to! Sleepy, half opened eyes, with gaping mouths and incredulous looks were usually the responses. So I learned to curb the sharing of my morning joy of life.
Later after married my morning joy and greetings were pretty much shut down by my husband who was a slow riser. Yet I usually managed to feel happy. I wanted to be joyful and happy! I wanted to keep my inner child of joy alive.
I grew up as a Christian so it seemed natural to be filled with joy, wonder and thanksgiving when I saw the wonders of nature and life as I watched my younger siblings grow; the wonder of how a spider knows how to spin a web; the various lifestyles of so many animals, insects and yes people, even life in general.
I could find joy and entertainment sitting in a field of grass and be fascinated with insects, flowers, or whatever there was to see. I usually didn’t mind waiting for events because there was always objects of curiosity to look at or observe. People were always around to stimulate my curiosity about what they were thinking or why they dressed the way they did or what they might be feeling. In short my world was an amazing place when I was growing up and many things made me happy.
While working full time as a nurse to support my husband and I, while he was in school, I found joy in learning to be a wife, in our friendships, the food and the history of New Orleans where we lived. Being a nurse is not an easy career but I enjoyed the challenge of it. Interacting with and helping people get well filled me with a fulfilling sense of joy.
Later our son was born. There is nothing like the joys of watching an infant grow and learn. I read to him, played with him, sang to him, took walks with him. He filled my heart with even more joy.
So you are thinking, “Is she nuts?! Did she never get mad, hurt, frustrated, unhappy, or have a negative thought or feeling???”
Sure I did! My husband developed poorly controlled diabetes, which later precipitated a stroke. He recovered with minimal physical limitations. But in 6 years he died at 58 of heart failure. He was a good person but the ravages of high blood sugars and mini-strokes affected his personality adversely.
Ignorant of what was happening to him physically, I continued in my efforts to keep joy alive in my life. I tried to explain away my husband’s irritability and how it affected me. But I survived! Yes, in a sense I used denial to cope with my life after things got hard. But I did deal with our relationship in the best way I knew how. My parents rarely argued, never yelled at each other and were truly a partnership. I had no background to deal with the situations in our marriage.
My joy and positive nature disappeared many times and for varying lengths of time. But I got it back because I wanted to be a positive influence in my family’s life. Sure there were times when I cried, when I was hurting emotionally. But I fought through it to maintain my joy and try to understand what was happening.
After my husband’s death over 7 years ago I maintained that joy by making a new life for myself. Redecorating the house we had lived in made it more “my home.” I made friends, worked, developed hobbies, studied photography, business, Spanish, and what ever tickled my fancy. I also adopted two cats. I felt good in my home and made it a place of joy and peace.
I had to retire early due to sciatica from two herniated discs in my back. It was scary for a while, (not knowing if the pain would be permanent) but fortunately it improved with exercise and treatment. But still I worried: Would I be able to walk without a cane? Would I need surgery? Would my back stabilize? Thankfully with exercise, care, time and just anti-inflammatory medicine I improved! I worked through the fears and regained my joy for life.
Almost three years ago I sold my 3 bedroom house with yard for a two bedroom condo with a screened in porch and no yard. My life continues to be a joy-filled one. Yes, I have aches and pains. Yes, I worry about finances. But I have a loving family, loving friends, good health other than occasional flare ups of sciatica and can live my life.
I am filled with joy when I think of all the people I have met and held as friends. I find joy still in the beauty of a flower, a butterfly, a baby, just being able to taste or smell something good to eat is a joy. Life itself is a joyous thing.
I firmly believe that my desire to have joy, in spite of the hard times, (actually after I worked through the bad times) have made me a more mentally happier and healthier person. Sometimes you have to let go of the past after you have learned whatever you needed to learn and start over again.