I’ve come to a sad conclusion. Being joyful…being happy…being grateful…is not second nature. It would be nice if it were…but I just don’t think it is. I know I can’t speak for everyone when I say that…and maybe you completely disagree. But in my opinion, in my observation, and through my experience…negativity seems a far easier route for most. Regardless of one’s circumstances…complaining, whining, letting the darkness creep in…it’s just so easy to let it all happen.
I knew, pretty early on in Dani’s diagnosis, that I would need to remain intentional about CHOOSING joy, happiness, and gratitude each.and.every.day. I was adamant that I would not allow the negativity win or allow the darkness to overtake the light. I wouldn’t let it happen. Not to me…and not to my family.
That doesn’t mean I’m full of giggles and sunshine all the time (ask my kids…or my husband…or my students 🙂 I have my “moments”, for sure. But I’ve tried the best I can throughout this journey…like REALLY, REALLY hard to – at the very least – make sure the happy outweighs the sad.
People ask me all the time “how do you do that!?” Truth is…somedays I have no idea. It’s definitely a challenge. But in thinking that through and trying to formulate an answer…how HAVE I been able to be happy in this – let’s just call it what it is – shit-storm…I’ve uncovered some things I’ve had to become extremely intentional about.
Ready? Here they are. (You can totally do a little drum roll in your head if you want…)
~ Devotions ~
My favorite devotional is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. My goal is to start out each day with the daily devotion but I don’t always remember. I keep a copy at home and one in my purse. Mark actually keeps on in his car too. There are days I forget…I’ll get better at that. I know that keeping a strong relationship with Him is imperative to my emotional and spiritual well being. And I always feel SO much better when I lay my burdens at His feet. I feel lighter, more free, able to focus on being happy.
~ Fresh Air ~
Not a revolutionary thought, I know. But for someone who hardly stepped out of her house for months following her daughter’s diagnosis for fear that a germ would jump out of the sky and attack her weakened immune system (talk about anxiety…), being intentional about getting some fresh air each and every day has been a real game-changer for me. It might just be a trip to the store, a quick walk, sledding in the winter, or drawing on the sidewalk in the summer with my kids. Or on the holy-crap-cold days, maybe just a quick sprint to the mailbox. But somehow being outside, even for just a minute or two, reminds me that there’s this other whole world out there. Easy to forget when you’re wrapped up in your own.
~ Be Yourself ~
I’m “type-A”. I just am. I’ve had to let a lot go over the past year and a half. Putting every little toy in it’s neat little spot each and every night before bed…it’s what I did. Just one of the items to check off of my carefully-planned daily routine. But with the new challenges of this diagnosis sucking me dry, something had to give. I just couldn’t do it all anymore. And I think letting some things go and not stressing about everything is good. But…I’m also realizing that “type-A” is just simply who I am. Letting too much go means I just have to deal with it later…and that, in it of itself, stresses me out. Case and point, let’s talk about Christmas. I tried to focus SO HARD on the real meaning of Christmas this year that I totally let it go…told myself I would not stress, I would not over-plan, I would not over-spend. But then…I let it go too much. So the morning of Christmas Eve, I was at Target all sweaty and stressed out, paying more for things I could have gotten on sale earlier, trying to make sure my kids had stuff to open a few hours later. How dumb is that? Letting go…didn’t work out so well there. Gotta find a happy medium…
~ Try Something New ~
Still working on this one because our time and resources are stretched so thin these days…but I have a few things up my sleeve. I love that rush of doing something you’ve never done before. Exploring….pushing your boundaries a bit. Taking two of my kiddos to Cali by myself this past week qualified. Not that I haven’t traveled…or been to San Francisco. But taking my kiddos by myself was new. It wasn’t the original plan but it’s what it turned into…so we embraced the opportunity and had a BLAST.
~ Accept Help ~
This was a hard one for me. I’ve always been able to “handle my business”, be in control, do it myself. Accepting help from others felt like a weakness. As I started to realize that I couldn’t do it all myself, and that help from my amazing support system was imperative, it was actually very freeing.
~ Learn to say NO ~
Again…very hard for me. I’ve always been a yes girl…I love to know how I can help, what else can I do, living life to the “fullest”. But in the meantime, I found myself with no downtime. No time to relax and enjoy it all, soak it all in, just BE.
~ Learn to say YES ~
Yes to playing, yes to reading, yes to movie-watching…yes to impromptu picnics, water fights, family hikes, finger-painting, science experiments, park visits, board games, last-minute wine with friends. Yes to dropping what I think is important, straying from “the plan”, and having a little fun.
~ Practice and TEACH Intentional Acts of Gratitude ~
Saying you’re grateful isn’t the same as actually being grateful. And demonstrating that gratitude can be even more of a stretch. It’s easy to let life get in the way and not invest time in gratitude…I confess to that happening to me much too often. I’ve found that it’s easier to put priority on the importance of teaching gratitude to my kids, which in turn helps me practice it as well. Want a “for instance”? K. We have a tradition at our house. During dinner every night, we do our “highs and lows”. The rule is that everyone HAS to have a “high”. But you don’t have to have a “low”. Besides being a great way to connect about everyone’s day, it’s also a chance to show gratitude about the good things and talk through or redirect negative feelings about the not-so-good things. I can’t tell you how many evenings we sit down for dinner and it’s my KIDS who start it up…cuz I’ve totally forgotten. Hearing their stories about how much they loved playing at recess, meeting a new friend, or how it was pizza day for school lunch…puts things in perspective pretty quickly.
Life is hard. Life with childhood cancer is even harder. CHOOSING to see light through the darkness and find joy in the journey is a CHALLENGE and it takes consistent effort…a lot of it. But it IS possible and so worth it. Because in the end, it’s not just my own light and my own joy I’m responsible for…it’s that of my kiddos’ as well. It’s up to me to show them how to not just weather the inevitable storms of life…but to SHINE in spite of the clouds.