Project Joy

I have been thinking a lot about where I am in my recovery and my life right now. Things have been really difficult, as I think has been clear in my writing. I have to admit, I’m a little bit embarrassed about that. 

Embarrassment comes from shame, I think. I feel somewhat ashamed at how I’ve approached the challenges in my life lately. I don’t say that to be unnecessarily harsh or impatient with myself. I say that because growth is always important to me. Every day I have a choice about how I want to experience life. I have a choice about whether I’m going to feed hope or despair. I have a choice about how I handle myself even when I can’t control my circumstances.

Choosing hope was easy for me when I was sick. Cancer simply materialized in my life. I didn’t do anything to deserve it. I didn’t choose it. It just happened. From the outset I knew it was a moment of choice. Was I going to experience this epic battle through joy or pain? While not every moment can be distilled into such basic lenses, and while I fully support acknowledging and processing all emotions, on the whole I believe I chose joy. I chose to find the light and I chose to return to the light when things got dark.

I haven’t chosen the light lately. The things that hurt me now feel like a product of my own actions. I feel like I created the difficult scenario I’m trying to survive right now. Unlike the random cell mutations in my body, this life is the outcome of a series of choices I’ve made. No, I cannot and did not control everything that has landed in my lap. However, I’m starting to realize that I’m in this particular arena because I chose to be in this arena.* As much as I would like to blame this on the residual effects of disease and the limitations cancer created in my life I still have a choice in the here and now. I still have a life to live and it’s time to get on with it.

I’m not mad at myself for hurting. I’m not going to look back and critique how I handled pain. What I am going to do is look forward. I am going to take a close look at my life (the life that was spared and saved, mind you) and evaluate what my values are and what choices I can make. I am going to look at all the tiny moments in my life and ask myself this question:

What choices can I make to step toward a joyful life?

I know that from the moment I open my eyes in the morning to the moment I drift to sleep at night, there’s a series of small things I can do to move toward joy. I think it will require that I slow down the day and start being conscious and aware of how I’m moving through my life. Difficult times require deliberate action. That doesn’t necessarily mean big action. It means conscious action. I haven’t made the space for that kind of awareness lately and I think it is one of the things that was fueling my despair.

That brings me here. I am choosing to put my energy into the things I can control. I am choosing to find people to help me and advise me on the things I can’t control and on the things I don’t yet understand. I am choosing to slow down my thoughts and my actions. I am inviting awareness and consciousness into my life. I am focusing on the small ways I can move toward the big values in my life. Simply put: I am choosing joy.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about this journey yet. I am an open book. If you have found something that works for you, something that has helped you reclaim a little more joy or peace in your life- mind, body, or spirit- please let me know. If I identify an area where I am stuck and you or someone you know has some insight, please share. If I can ever be that person in your life, please reach out. I like to think that we create communities that help make us whole in life. The idea of getting through it alone doesn’t fit me anymore. I’ve seen first hand how much love exists in this world and I know of no greater force. 

This is my new project: To sift through my beliefs and faith and extract what is most valuable and meaningful. I’ll then set my compass to those marks and plan my way ahead. That is where I need to go in my life now. This is what feels right. 

Give ‘Em Hell

* Thanks Kimberly!

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