As each day passes I am on continuous watch for my weekly blog post topic. This week I find it in what I randomly chose to put in the occasional Facebook post: in the midst of chaos, loss of all kinds for me and for Mama, irritation and frustration, feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion, there have been moments of peace and beauty and love.
Although over the past four years I’ve overheard Mama tell people she still loves this life, I confess I have not thought she was experiencing joy, at least not in the way I define it. But perhaps she did know, at least in theory, that it is the last important thing. And who am I to decide how she defines and experiences it? Just because she can’t tell me what brings her joy on any given day, doesn’t mean nothing does I guess.
Now, though, I think she is not enjoying it at all. And that is sad to me. If her joy came from the measure of independence she had—moving about the house, supervising her caregiver (and trying to supervise me), partially taking care of her own daily living needs, at least pretending to be in control of all things—these broken bones have taken all of that from her. It always seemed to me she took her good health for granted, concentrating her energy on what she couldn’t do: see. But certainly now she knows how good she had it, and she has become, in her own words, depressed and wishing for death.
Rebecca is reading a book called “The Happiness Advantage,” by Shawn Achor. She told me the author equates vision with happiness. As in people who are happy see better, physically. I wonder if the reverse is true: I have never considered my mother a joyful person and, gradually losing her vision over four decades, she is all but blind now. Achor is talking about physical vision (which is pretty interesting), but it’s spiritual vision that’s on my mind today.
I skimmed some of the pages of the book on Amazon. It seems psychologists and clinicians focus on eliminating the negative factors of a client’s life; but, the author writes, the absence of negative influence doesn’t lead to happiness. What if we focused instead on what makes us happy? Would the negative disappear? Happiness first.
“Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, creative, and productive…”
I don’t think that’s the same thing as trying to find the light in what is undeniably gloomy. Last night Mama got me up right after I’d gone to sleep to help her to the bathroom, and again at 3:30. After that my adrenaline was pumping and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I heard on the monitor next to my bed every sleep apnea shuddered gasp she took, every sleep muttering, my heart speeding up with each sound. I’m sure there are those out there who will be tempted to tell me there is a bright side in that, but for me there isn’t. Though sometimes I hear the coyotes during my wakefulness…
This month I received care packages from two people, one I met just once at a writing retreat and one—which I picked up at the PO this morning—from someone I’ve never met. She found my blog via a trip report I wrote for the Washington Trails Association website and linked to my website post about the trail. She left a comment on my blog post last week and we’re already fast friends. They both sent a journal, among other lovely gifts. Another friend, whom I first met at the same writing retreat, gifted me free registration to her online tarot course.
I could go on and on with the support I receive from friends (and cousins) across the country and from readers of this blog whom I’ve never met. That is Joy.
Will I be happy when my mother is gone and I have more freedom to do those things that give me joy? And what if something happens to me and when that day comes, I am not able to do them? Will I be unhappy? I will certainly be unhappy that I spent a single moment waiting for happiness. There are actually a lot of things that bring me joy; unlike my mother I am a generally positive person. The trick for me is to notice the things large and small that make me happy, rather than be disappointed that the walk in the woods outside my door wasn’t a trip to the mountains, or exasperated that the five minutes in the sun on the deck next to the “Fragrant Delight” heliotrope wasn’t fifteen.
So here is the commitment I’m making to myself today: to try to remember to breathe in what there is time and opportunity for now, and to notice. (It’s not the first time I’ve committed to this, but I forget so easily during hard times.) The day I become blind to the little things is the day I will be ready to leave this world behind. Tomorrow will be waiting for me when I get there and I hope I will be better prepared for whatever weather comes.
I will use one of my new journals to record daily joys. Won’t you share on this post (not on the FB link) something that gives you joy this week?