Finding Joy in the Simple Things During Challenging Times
I had hopes for my future.
It’s what we do as human beings. We hope.
But like many, my hopes changed direction. Away from one of my greatest desires. And I learned at the end of the day, the way in which we show up in life can either make us better or bitter. I chose to be better.
In life, it is healthy to envision a happy and fulfilling future. And work towards achieving goal after goal. But there are times when our dreams don’t manifest in the way we expected, and we find ourselves in a state of frustration, disappointment, or hopelessness. Be it an unexpected job loss, the end of a relationship, a major illness, or the passing of a loved one, we are sometimes faced with the decision of either staying in our unplanned sorrow, or moving forward and finding joy in the simple things.
My hope was to bear children one day. In my guestroom, I have a wooden chest which I call my “Hope Chest”. Within the chest are baby clothes, books, and blankets that I quilted with my grandmother. A few years ago, however, I began to experience pain in my lower abdomen. Eventually, I went to the doctor as I noticed my abdomen was swollen. And I was shocked to learn that there was a mass on my ovary the size of a small football. Concerned with how quickly the mass was growing, my doctor insisted on an invasive surgery within a week. Being the planner that I am, I ensured my upcoming responsibilities were taken care of and expected to recover in the coming weeks.
I didn’t expect that my recovery would be much more than physical.
Upon waking up from surgery, I was extremely sick. But the hardest part of my recovery was learning that in the process of removing the mass, which was confirmed to be cancerous, I lost the ability to carry a child.
The plan I fantasized about, since I was a child myself, had changed. And not because I chose to change it. But because sometimes our hopes and life’s plans don’t align in the way we think they will. I’ve since found my joy again. By choosing to seek it each day in the simple things.
Here are 3 ways I shifted my perspective from what I lost to what I gained.
I relied on my support system. I consider myself to be an independent person. And while I have wonderful friends and family, I choose to work through life’s obstacles on my own. But not this time. A support system is crucial when faced with some of life’s greatest disappointments. We are social beings, and when confronting a battle that feels insurmountable, it is essential to have a community.
Whether this community consists of family, friends, medical and mental health professionals, a church congregation, or a support group, asking for support to help you walk when merely standing feels impossible can be life-giving. And when those people do show up, recognizing each one of them as a person who cares provides a feeling of joy and purpose.
I found something to care for. While it may seem counterproductive to care for something else when you feel depleted, it helped me to step outside of my pain and find joy in seeing another thrive. Prior to my surgery, I adopted two beautiful kittens, Liberty and Lincoln. And through my recovery, they brought me a joy I don’t believe I would have experienced, had I not gone through such a difficult process. I learned that what matters at the end of the day are the little things. Like two kittens chasing one another, rolling around on my living room floor, and then coming to snuggle beside me. Having to care for them, and the happiness I experienced in watching them thrive, helped me to heal and focus on the day to day laughter and joy they brought.
I pursued a passion. As a form of therapy, I transformed the spaces around me. I began by painting the walls in my home to a color that brought me joy. And I worked on several DIY projects that provided me with time to reflect, and create things I was proud of. I learned to control what I could, and find peace with those things that were just beyond.
Something I repeated daily in my recovery was, “my life is just the way it is supposed to be.” I chose to not view myself as a victim, but to remind myself that I was on the exact learning journey I was meant to have. And I learned that hope is a powerful emotional tool as I choose to maintain the hope that somehow, someway, someday, I will be a mother.
When faced with hardships, it is easy to find temporary calm in substances like alcohol and drugs. But those things don’t allow you to cope. They simply mask that pain, which will always reemerge. By immersing yourself in healthy habits, and finding joy where you are, you will allow yourself the opportunity to truly heal—and find a new path to follow.
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