FINDING JOY

September 1 ,2019

“Find your joy,” they say, “You have to stop worrying.”

Good advice, but how exactly does one do that? What brings joy to one person might aggravate the hell out of another.

Some folks find peace in yoga or meditation.  Some prefer long walks, or the opposite, running.  Some knit, scrapbook or binge watch Netflix.  Many find cooking therapeutic, something I’ll never understand, though I fully appreciate the products of their labors!

There are countless ways for one to disconnect from his or her stressful world.

Some  things I’ve tried have led my husband to question my sanity, or at least my intentions. When undergoing chemo, I painted wine glasses and cake domes. The first ones were sort of free-styled, with designs growing more intricate as time went on.

Dozens of glasses later, I saw a collection of work that not only documented my progress, but one that steered my mind away from cancer thoughts.  He saw an ever growing pile of glassware accumulating by the case.

He saw the expense and the precious space they were taking up in our not-so-big house and probably thought I was nutty.

“What are you planning to do with all of those?”

“I don’t know… give them away?”

Then there’s the gym…

Working out and challenging myself physically has been a release for me, before, during and now after treatments. Call me crazy.

Or crazy smart.

While a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to developing disease, becoming or staying active is shown to improve survival rates and even help treatments work better. Some cancer centers have gyms on premise, where patients work out with qualified exercise specialists right after chemotherapy infusions.

One of the medications I was treated with, AC, can potentially cause congestive heart failure any time in the future, even twenty years down the road. Wanting to keep my heart healthy, but concerned for safety, I asked my oncologist if I can still run intervals. “You not only CAN, but you SHOULD,” was his enthusiastic reply!

So THERE!

Lately I’ve been spending some time at the drawing board, applying layer upon layer of colored pencil to paper, trying to capture detailed portraits of people and machines.  It’s time consuming, but has a Zen quality that quells my racing brain, especially when accompanied by some good music or an interesting podcast.

Because they say it’s great for one’s mental state, I’m learning Tai Chi, and am beginning to see how it can completely occupy your mind.   First you have to learn the movements, which are utterly foreign to me, involving a degree of grace and balance.

You’ve heard of the proverbial “bull in the china shop?” Yeah, that’s me.

I’m used to “lift something heavy, put it down, repeat.”

This is a whole new ball game.  It’s slow and meditative.

Once you learn the gentle movements,  you have to remember them in a particular order.

They say that, in time, you’ll feel the energy  as you move through the motions.

Maybe I’ll get there eventually, but sometimes teaching myself to relax feels a lot like work.

Not today.  This day is different.

Today I’m waking up on the beach in North Carolina.   There’s a hurricane coming, but at this moment the sounds of gulls and pounding surf are blissfully restorative.

My heart is as light as the ocean breeze on my skin and this coffee is nothing short of perfect.

I don’t even like the beach, but there’s something about this place.

Maybe it’s the fact that it sits within a few steps of the ocean.  Not “a few steps” as an anxious-to-make-the-sale realtor might write in a listing.  Really a few steps.  High tide submerged the first few stairs to the deck.

If it’s not an ideal location when hurricanes threaten, it’s still a perfect place to experience nature’s hypnotic rhythm, the pull of the moon and power of the ocean.

Maybe it’s simply the chance to leave my usual life behind, enjoying great food and a few cocktails.  V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N!

I think mostly it’s just slowing down and spending time with my sister (one of those nuts who likes cooking) and brother-in-law, basking in their love and enjoying the home they so graciously share with us, a home that survived a direct storm hit one year ago and, God  willing, will withstand this one.

It’s calming to know that, whatever happens to this little structure on the beach, the love of family is strong enough to endure whatever life sends its way.  It will remain intact, strong and steadfast.

It will always lift me out of my dark, scary place.

Always.

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