Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you’re actually living. Rachel Marie Martin.
I came across this quote on facebook last week and it stayed with me for several reasons. I often feel that the adult life I imagined for myself when I was growing up hasn’t played out. In some ways it’s been better than I imagined, but in many ways, it’s been harder and not the superhero lifestyle I thought I might have!
There have been disappointments as well as nice surprises along the way. I do believe that we can change our direction in life and of course things aren’t set in stone, but sometimes twists and turns come out of the blue and we struggle to process them.
For my children they aren’t living the life I would’ve wanted for them. It is complicated of course, but children shouldn’t have to experience trauma and be separated from the ones who brought them into the world. I know in my conversations with them now that they are older, that we all understand they couldn’t stay in their birth environment, and that their lives today would have probably been a lot more challenging if they had.
Wherever we find ourselves though sometimes it can be hard to see the joy in those circumstances. I’ve just come out of doing some mental health training in a special school in Birmingham and when children or adults are struggling with their mental health it’s hard to see the moments of joy – even when they do arrive.
Happiness and joy are different. Compassion (the charity that sponsors children in poverty) describe joy as an inner feeling and happiness as an outward expression.
They go on to say…
‘Understanding the differences between happiness and joy has a greater purpose than being fodder for an intellectual debate. The distinctions between happiness and joy have many real-world applications. One practical application pertains to children living in extreme poverty.
Poverty is often synonymous with despair. A heavy word, but also a word with a bark worse than its bite. Despair is like happiness in that it’s temporary, although it never feels that way. Despair is a product of circumstance, and it can’t hold a candle to joy. Joy can overcome anything and everything in this world if it’s allowed. If it’s chosen.
In choosing joy there is hope. With joy, hardship offers growth and opportunity. With joy, self-esteem and self-respect are indestructible’.
The last few years have been difficult for me in my circumstances, and it’s not been something I’ve chosen necessarily, but it has happened. Being able to accept that things have changed is one step but then also being able to see the joy (inner feeling of contentment) in that new life is another step that needs to be taken.
Very early in my adoption journey I started writing down daily the little things I’m grateful for. They were simple things like a hot chocolate on a cold day, a walk with a friend, the sunrise, a good film on TV. Over time these things filled my joy bucket and let me see that even when other things were difficult there are ALWAYS good things happening too.
How do we live this for ourselves but also encourage those children and young people around us in this too?
- Stop and notice. We are often too busy to really see things around us. Whilst I write this in a coffee shop, I am taking moments to look up and around. Who is here? What is outside? How am I feeling inside? When we take time to do that, we can see the joyful moments that otherwise might pass us by.
- Pay attention to your emotions. I’ve recently come across a guy online (Arian Samouie) who talks about emotions being the warning lights in our lives. Emotions tell us what is going on and what we need. They are not bad or good – they are just indications of what’s going on inside. They tell us what we need. I know this but being told it in these terms helps me to listen to my emotions and to not try and suppress them, but to understand them and act on what they are telling me. The same with children and young people. They are communicating a need to us through their emotions.
- Be grateful for the small things first. Intentionally being grateful is an empowering thing. Often, we may feel out of control if our lives are difficult but when we actively thank people for things or just write down what we are grateful for it gives us a feeling of control.
Finding joy in the life we are living is so important. Regretting what we don’t have is pointless. We do have to go through a process of course to accept where our life might be now, and do what we can to change it, but ultimately being content in the life we have helps us to feel more empowered to change those things we can.
So today let’s be thankful and hold onto the good things in our lives and help others to do the same. There is a time to mourn the things we’ve lost or don’t have but there is also definitely a time to rejoice in what we do have and what precious wonders there are in our everyday lives. Today my three things I’m grateful for are firstly the time to write this post, secondly the hot chocolate that accompanied it and thirdly the people I have met today who have enhanced my experience of life.