When my oldest was 4 years old, we had a bit of a problem. He was a typical 4-year-old boy: pushing boundaries, being curious, annoying his siblings. And I was a stressed-out mother of 3 young children, who was working full-time and trying to keep everything together. It was not a good combination. All I could see was him being naughty…and he was. But at some point, I had the realization that perhaps if I LOOKED for the good things, he just might start behaving differently. And hence, my 1st gratitude journal began. I made a point of every night writing down 5 things I was grateful for about him, and lo and behold, the more I looked for the goodness, the more it appeared. It was a huge shift in our relationship and one that I carried forward into all aspects of my life.
Today I am happy to be known as the woman who finds hearts everywhere. And I do! From coffee stains to rocks to plants…you name it, I seem to find them. But here’s the thing: they are there for ANYONE to find! I just happen to be LOOKING for them. I must admit it makes my day when someone sends me a picture of a heart THEY found and tell me they thought of me. I just love that they found one for themselves!
I am one of those persons who is in that sandwich generation. I have aging parents whose health issues will not really get any better. I have a significant other who is struggling with a chronic disease. And of course, I have those aforementioned children, and well, we always worry about our kids, no matter how old they are!!
It can become overwhelming.
I have to remind myself to LOOK for the joy. It’s there, even if it’s hard to uncover some times. It’s in the little things: a smile of recognition from my father, a laughter-filled conversation with my mom, my partner telling me he wants to take me on vacation – whether or not that is even possible. The inside jokes, being able to be of service, to spend time with those you love…it all matters. It can all bring me joy, when I allow it to.
I am grateful to have found a Caregivers support group on Facebook, where others experiencing the same or similar situations can meet, ask questions and vent, knowing there are people who “get it”. I HIGHLY recommend it for any situation you may find yourself in! I posed the question to them “How do you find joy, regardless of the situation you’re in?” While most of who answered are struggling with that issue, here’s what one person wrote: “Let go of what was, accept and enjoy what is”. It is so true. If I spend ANY time thinking about how we used to be, or worse, imagining what is to come, I start down this dark rabbit hole. The joy can ONLY be found in the present….and sometimes you really just need to LOOK for it!
I think about people in unimaginably difficult situations, like concentration camps, or natural disasters or any number of horrible situations. I found it hard to see how they could find ANY joy. And now, having experienced only a portion of what they must have gone through, I get it. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said “For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower, even from the cliffs of despair.”
Joy is there. Love abounds. You owe it to yourself to look for it.