After my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis 4 years ago, and the subsequent death of my husband – I thought there would be precious little to make me happy for a long time. My sadness over losing him and my new reality with metastatic breast cancer weighed me down. At first I thought I couldn’t be happy, and then I thought I shouldn’t. Like I was not honoring his memory by being happy… and yet, I knew that’s not what he would’ve wanted. When he was alive we laughed all the time. He said I made him laugh more than anyone he ever met, and he cracked me up all the time too.
Time passed, the sorrow lessened, and I found that I could be happy again. That I could laugh, when something was funny. People called me an inspiration. But that wasn’t what I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to show others how strong I was, I was just trying to survive without crying every minute from missing him and our life together so much.
I worked hard to keep myself positive, to stay upbeat and not lose my sense of humor. That, which may have looked effortless was actually a daily reminder to myself that life was short, and precious, that I had to be grateful for every minute, and joyful in every way I could.
Recently a friend gave me a book called 14,000 things to be happy about. I wondered what the author would write about and how she managed to find that many things… but then I read a few pages and I found that a lot of what she wrote about were things that would make you happy. Now happiness is not joy. Joy is more deep seeded than happy. I still had joy, but I wanted happy too. So on the pages I found things that when I thought about them, really did make me happy; a toddler’s vocabulary, a bowl of fresh sweet strawberries, sweet potato souffle with little marshmallows, April fool’s jokes, bad puns… well the list goes on – I mean she lists 14,000.
The point is that even when things seem at their worst, when you couldn’t possibly find anything to make you smile, remember that even something as seemingly insignificant as a colorful kite flying on the wind could be enough to jump start your ability to be happy again.
So, what makes you happy? What little thing brings a smile to your face and lightens a heavy heart?
by Norma Pitzer-Kelly