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 now know my mom and dad had coffee before they woke us up! 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.
Later after I married, my morning joy and greetings were pretty much shut down by my husband who was a very 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 can find joy and entertainment sitting in a field of grass and be fascinated with insects, flowers, or whatever there is to see.
People can also be a source of entertainment and curiosity: wondering what they are thinking or why they dressed the way they did or what they might be feeling. In short my world is now and was an amazing place to grow up in.
After my husband and I were married, we moved to New Orleans for him to go to school there. I worked full time as a nurse to support us. I enjoyed being a wife, learning to cook and be supportive of him during his studies.
Being a nurse is not an easy career but I was rewarded with the fulfillment of interacting with and helping people get well.. Helping others gave me great joy and purpose.
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, high blood pressure and mini-strokes affected his personality even more adversely than the diabetes had.
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 help me 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 recapture my joy and try to understand what was happening.
After my husband’s death over 10 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 bulging 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 and some weight loss, I improved! I worked through the fears and regained my joy for life.
In 2014 I sold my 3 bedroom house with yard for a two bedroom condo with a screened in porch and no yard. I do have a little red maple tree on the corner of my porch. My life continues to be a joy-filled one.
I also adopted the young man who had called me, “Mom,” since he was 15. With him I gained my first daughter in law and later two grandsons and a granddaughter. My first son also married and so I have another wonderful daughter in law and a “grand-dog.”
Yes, I have aches and pains. Yes, I worry about finances sometimes. But I have a loving family, loving friends, good health (other than occasional back ache and sciatica) and can live a reasonably active life. 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 stronger, 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.