Cultivating Joy While Life is Kicking the Sh** Out of You

We have all had those years in our lives when everything seems to turn into hell in a hand-basket.  Every time we think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we realize it is just the next train about to hit you head on.  Whether it is something you personally are being challenged with, or a member of your family, it hurts like crazy regardless.

Then there are those years where everything seems to be turning up roses.  You get the promotion you wanted, you get married, you have a baby, or you win the lottery (still waiting for this to happen).  This is usually followed shortly thereafter by some calamity, big or small that drops you on your butt and leaves you scratching your head.  That was my year in 2013 in a nutshell.  If it was the only year it happened, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  Mind you, I didn’t say leaves you crying.  I’ve done that too, but for the most part, I choose to laugh rather than cry.  However, I’m not made of steel, nor am I a super-hero, so I do have those days when crying seems the best option.  I don’t pride myself on the fact that I choose not to cry, I just try and look at the situation from a different perspective; that of the stand-up comedian.  These are the situations that make for great jokes and super funny punch lines, well not initially anyway.  I laugh because I just can’t believe another situation hit me like a two-by-four to the side of the head.  However, after the initial disbelief, you have to be able to change the focus, or it will suck you under and drown you in a wave of depression the size of the Titanic.

I would like to claim I am an all-star at being positive and changing the perspective of things, but I am not.  Some days I am better at it than others.  If I made resolutions for each new year, I think mine would be to cultivate joy regardless of what is happening around me.  Joy comes from a place of gratitude.  In a culture of entitlement, gratitude appears to be in short supply.  I want to grow a frick’in acre of gratitude this year.  It will produce a bumper crop of joy, and joy is infectious.

Attitude is the key to unlocking the reservoir of gratitude and joy.  Most people would say I am happy.  They always see me smiling.  For the most part, that is true.  In fact, when I am not smiling, people have come to know that something is very, very wrong.  I am reminded of when I was pregnant with my daughter.  I was twenty-seven weeks along and this agonizing pain started one morning every time I moved.  I was not smiling that day.  I got an emergency appointment with my doctor.  She took one look at me and said, “You’re not smiling so I know that something is really wrong.”  It turned out to be a five day stay at the hospital and later a horrendous four day delivery at thirty-seven weeks and five days gestation.  I was crying then, I assure you.  I was in agony and left with complications I wouldn’t fully realize until I was pregnant with my son, but that is another story.

All that to say, you can choose to let the tragedies and hardships of life keep you crying, or you can change your perspective.  Who hasn’t complained about the cost of their heating/electricity bill?  While your complaining, be grateful you have heat and electricity, as there are millions of people who don’t have that luxury.  How about the mom complaining about constantly picking up her kid’s toys?  There are thousands of women who can’t have a baby, or thousands more who have lost a baby, and would love to have that problem.  It isn’t fun picking up after a two-year old, but at least you have that blessing.

I recently saw a post on Facebook that I reposted to my wall about a 92-year old woman who is blind.  I loved her life philosophy, and I am going to share excerpts from it here.  “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less

Thank you Mrs. Jones, your wealth of experience is a great lesson to us all. 

What are you depositing today?  It brings to mind the Bible verse in Matthew 6:19-21; “Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal.  Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal.  For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  I am not suggesting you shouldn’t save for the future, but the focus of this verse for me is the last line.  What is more important to you, hordes of money that can be gone in an instant, or hordes of joy that can’t be stolen; you have to choose to give it away?  I will save money, but more importantly, I will be depositing heavily into my “happiness bank account” this year by cultivating gratitude and reaping joy, regardless of what train is heading directly in my path.



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