I know you have troubles. I hear them almost daily, and see them in the lives of my friends. We all do, no?
Sometimes they’re the life-and-death kind of issues, and finding how to smile through those can be tough. Many times our problems are mundane—the mortgage, job, kids with school concerns (and if you have adolescents, well, those are perpetual!), troubles with friends or relatives. The list is endless, no?
And sometimes finding joy during these times is tough indeed. While we all know that setbacks, tragedies, and failures are part of life, those words can sure ring hollow when you’re in the midst of those things.
We have a lot of tools for sorting through the negative emotions. When troubles seem to bury me, and mainly when I’m sad, I go back to the big three on my litmus test from the work of Martin Seligman. And I don’t even ask them as questions, but more as probes:
- Is this personal. Meaning, did I cause it.
Funny enough, sometimes it actually helps when I did cause it. Because then I know that I can learn from this and do it different next time.
But often, things just happen over which we have no control. And then I have to remind myself—I have no control over this event, only how I deal with it.
- Is it pervasive. Does this affect my entire world?
If we’re talking the death of someone close, yes, yes it does. At least for a time, the clouds are grey and heavy over my soul. And I know I have to feel those feelings, let them out, and that can take a while. In actuality, it takes as long as it takes.
But with most things, even though I’d like to say yes (justifies my bad mood! LOL), my entire world isn’t blue. Something always exists within that funk to bring me joy. So it’s my choice whether to focus on the angst-driven or the joyful. And sometimes I have trouble with that! You know, we want to wallow a bit . . .
Author Marianne Williamson said, “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
I’ll confess, at times, I’ve gone, “Yeah, well, you don’t know how bad they really are!”
And then I start laughing. Even while treading water through a huge setback, my life is more secure than 95% of the world’s population. In fact, the people in the bottom 5% of American income are still richer than 68% of the rest of the world’s inhabitants.
Okay, then. That kicks my butt back in gear.
- Is it permanent.
So, with death, it is. I’m not talking spiritual beliefs as to whether you’ll see that person again, but rather, for now, on this earth, he’s gone. But even then, he lives in my heart forever.
Most things, however, are only permanent if I stay stuck in them. A book didn’t turn out (an issue pretty close to my heart!), but other stories await to be written. And again, whether to focus on the failure or the door opening behind it is always my choice.
I’m big on uplifting quotes. They soothe me, in many ways. For one they show me that others have walked through difficulties and made it out. And while our problems are personal, to see how others have managed, often in far worse conditions, helps to shine the light.
One that just tweaks me, especially when the mountains to climb keep getting larger, one right after another, is from Henry Ford, who surely had a setback or two! But this one for whatever reason brings for me a big smile, and joy blossoms right behind it:
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
So, today, I choose joy. Come fly with me!