I Just Want to Feel Happy Again

“You’re here really early,” was my greeting when I arrived at 8:15 am to do one of my all day workshops for cancer patients. “Well, the workshop is from 9-4 so I’m getting set up,” I replied. “But we have the workshop scheduled from 10 to noon.” She sounded confused. “And we have almost twenty people signed up.”

“OK,” I said slowly, thinking to myself, “What the heck! This is always an 8-hour workshop. We’ve been doing it for years. I’ve got everything planned out, all the supplies and stuff ready. This is messed up. How could they make a mistake like this? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO????” When threatened by the change in plans, my anger, “poor me”, and  “It’s not what it’s supposed to so I’ll just cancel and go home childishness” mentality rushed in.

“OK,” I repeated, ever the professional. “I’ll do a two-hour workshop,” and breathed in deeply as I assured her everything was fine.

As I frantically explored options in my mind, I reminded myself that I’m a life coach. My specialty is embracing the unexpected. “You can do something powerful in two hours,” my intuition whispered. “Have fun with it and see what happens.”

So I did. And it was delightful. Rather than choosing what I would teach the participants, I started by asking them what they needed. Surprisingly, a common theme emerged.  Battling cancer, moving into recovery or facing death, living with the physical, financial, and emotional challenges of their situations, what they wanted most was to feel hopeful and happy again. They wanted to bring happiness into the chaotic world fate handed them.

I marveled at their hunger for this universal, most basic human need. They weren’t asking for false hope, or miraculous cures. They wanted to accept the terms life harshly dished out, and to move beyond the negative. They wanted a new beginning.

I was brought low by their hope and courage. And inspired to dig deeper into the details of what would bring happiness to each of them.

I asked them to close their eyes, breathe deeply, and let their mind float. “Visualize yourself on your 95th birthday party, celebrating your well lived life,” I began, as they breathed in and out. “Imagine you’re watching a movie of your life. A movie featuring all of your happiest moments. Highlighting the memories you treasure most. Showcasing the things you’re proudest of. A history of the things that made you smile and laugh. Your moments of gratitude and appreciation.”

When the visualization ended, I asked them, “What did you see that brought you the most happiness and joy?”

I saw each of their faces light up as they shared. “Watching my grandchildren play together” “Nurturing the flowers in my garden” Gathering the courage to travel by myself; Laughing till my sides hurt with my sister; Learning to speak French; Eating chocolate; and “Playing with my dog.”

“How much time do you spend doing the things you love?” I asked.

“I’d forgotten how much I love playing with my dog. But I don’t do it anymore,” was one’s response. “I just don’t have time to garden anymore,” sighed another.

“Picture yourself making time for these things,” I challenged them. “How do you feel?”

“Happy,” said one. “Peaceful,” chimed in another. “It feels good,” someone else chimed in.

When the group ended with each of us making a commitment to include our simple pleasures in our day to day lives, I was amazed at the difference in the participants attitude. They had come in unable to imagine a life of happiness. They left connected to what matters and willing to make it a priority.  

For so many of us, we’ve lost our awareness of the little, simple pleasures in life that make us happy.  Our feelings of enjoying our lives have vanished.

For many of us, cancer is a reminder of what really matters. Why does it take something so dramatic to remind us to do what we love while we can? To become aware of and do what makes us happy? To create a new beginning?

This group of people facing so much reminded me that everyday is a new beginning. Is it time for a new beginning for you?

By Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC


18-year cancer survivor, credentialed life coach,  and award-winning author, Paula Holland De Long is an authority on how the lessons of survivorship can bring joy, passion and purpose to anyone’s life. Her life coaching work has given thousands of people the confidence and tools needed to take back control and live happier, healthier lives. Learn more at www.WhatsNextForMyLife.com.



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