A Hypocrite’s Path to Joy

Feeling a bit hypocritical today. I spend my time writing about the everyday joys in the everyday ups and downs of life. I spend my time “preaching” this concept to my kids, and anyone else who will listen. After spending a year of my life fighting cancer, seeking out moments of joy is paramount to my existence; necessary for my mental–and physical–survival. I desperately want to live each moment to the fullest extent, and revel in all of the experiences I am given along the way. But these past few weeks I have done anything but revel. I am not enjoying the downs one little bit, and the ups seem to be getting further apart and feel a lot less up, if you know what I mean.

As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, I have been experiencing some concerns in my general health, which always affect a person’s mental outlook. I understand this, but am not at all happy with the way I’m handling these issues. Take yesterday, for instance.

A pressing need to see me...
A pressing need to see me… (Photo credit: windsordi)

I had my regular, every-six-month mammogram scheduled for yesterday morning, bright and early. So I headed off to the imaging center to get it done. While there, I wanted to mention a couple of areas that had been concerning me for a month or two. Both of them are very high up, and very deep on my chest; the left one actually is against the breast bone and feels almost like it’s part of the bone. If it didn’t feel so entirely different in shape from the other side I would have blown it off completely. But it feels different. Very different. And it’s somewhat tender when I press on it. Call me paranoid if you must, but I wanted it checked. I knew the mammogram wouldn’t be able to “see” it, but in order to get any other test that would, I had to mention it at the mammo check.

After manipulating me into a dozen different, excruciatingly painful positions–each more painful than the last–and trying quite unsuccessfully to catch a glimpse of either spot, they sent me for an ultrasound…thank heavens! I’m not sure I could have taken much more pretzel-twisting acrobatics. But after a very cursory ultrasound (I am very spoiled by my surgeon’s much more thorough scans, I guess) they determined there was nothing visible on either area and they happily sent me home. Except, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t even moderately entertained. Not even remotely amused. I was, quite frankly, miserable. The “suspicious” spot on my breast bone ached and burned horribly (quite odd for a spot that doesn’t exist, right?) and my mood was atrocious. I cried all the way home. I felt like a hypochondriac, a complainer, and a great big baby for being so wrong about both “suspicious” spots. How could I be so unfamiliar with my own body? Could I really be that wrong about what I’m feeling?

After hours and hours of feeling sorry for myself, I finally went to bed early, just to have the day over with sooner–and the spot still burned. Which only made me feel worse emotionally. And this morning I woke up to a continuation of the burning tenderness and have thus convinced myself that I must be a hypochondriac and I’m now feeling way too sorry for myself to even function. Yeah, man, I’m glimpsing the joy, huh?

And this is where my “philosophy of life” hits a brick wall. Can one really “glimpse joy” in the everyday ups–and downs–of life? Is it truly possible to feel abundant joy despite the everyday awful things that happen? Not necessarily the earth-shattering events, like death and cancer and divorce and betrayal, but in the everyday, mundane, miseries and upsets of everyday, normal life? Yes, I think you can–hypocrite that I am. Despite the fact that I am failing miserably at it these days, I do believe that it is possible–and that it is also quite necessary.

I’m not always great at following my own advice–obviously. And sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit) I have great difficulty in even remembering how to find the joy, much less feel it and enjoy it. But I do believe it is there and I do believe strongly that it can be and should be looked for, enjoyed and clung to. It’s like looking up in the sky on a really, incredibly storm-cloudy day and catching that tiny glimpse of blinding sun as it breaks through one of the clouds, painting a brilliant silver-white glow around the edge of that charcoal gray cloud. That’s joy in the midst of the downs of life. Without the clouds, it would simply have been a sunny sky. Nice but nothing truly extraordinary. It’s the darkness of the clouds that create such beautiful contrast to the blinding light shining through.

I believe that life is very much like that. The more “sunny” days you have, the harder it can sometimes be to enjoy the brightness of the light shining around you. And when the storm clouds come, all you seem to be able to focus on is the darkness they bring. But if you choose to look up, directly into the clouds–instead of focusing on the moment, instead of focusing on the ground you’re walking on, instead of  just muddling through the dirt–you just might catch a tiny glimpse of blinding sun, intensely burning joy. I’ve been focusing too much on the ground I’m traveling on, instead of looking up at the clouds, at the sky. Instead of looking for the tiny rays of sunshine, I’ve been focused on my feet, focused on the grayness of the clouds and next step I have to take.

Like yesterday. I was focused on the mammo, on the ultrasound, on the “suspicious” spot–the routine, the path, the questions, the rain cloud. Had I looked up through the clouds and the fears, I would have seen: the mammo tech smiling her encouraging smile as she sent me off to the ultrasound room, telling me she was praying for good things for me. Her courage could have been my own beacon through the darkness. My surgeon’s nurse-advocate who “dropped in” while I was there, just to say hi and let me know they were going to make sure I got the tests I needed, offering me a ray of courage and hope, a little sunshine through the fear-clouds. The extra hugs my second born son gave me all afternoon, just because he knew I needed them, even though he didn’t know why–little pieces of bright heavenly love. The peace and quiet I found as I curled up under the covers of my very comfy bed, seeking solace in the warmth and the darkness, wrapping me in a blanket of seclusion, desperately needed. The incredibly exquisite sunrise that greeted me this morning as I took my youngest to school, lighting up the sky with brilliant pinks, yellows and bright baby blues–painted like a psychedelic nursery splashed full of neon-pastel colors and light. These were tiny–almost microscopic–rays of light, of life, of joy, shining rather shyly through the clouds of my day.

I must remember to stop focusing on the grayness of the clouds, the darkness of the ground I am traveling, and look up high into the sky, seeking out the tiny rays of light as they peek through the clouds of life. Hypocrite that I may be, I still believe this is possible; and hopefully, I will remember to look up, if only for today.

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