Finding Joy in the Midst of Difficulty

 


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Have you ever had one of those days? Well, for me, it’s been weeks, and weeks, and weeks!

To say the least, the past eight months have been challenging. I'm sure you'll be able to relate! The good news is, I learned some valuable lessons, even though some of them weren't apparent until afterward.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here, in a nutshell, are just some of the highlights of my recent challenges.

My “Adventure”

I had just given my 30-day notice at my full-time position so I could go back into business for myself. Two weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer. A month after that, my kids gave me a huge, previously planned birthday party. It was just two days before my surgery – so I couldn’t have any of my own birthday cake. Bummer. If you could understand just how much I love chocolate, you’d know how difficult it was to watch other people eat my cake!

During my subsequent surgery, there were some difficulties, so instead of 3½ to 4 hours it lasted 6. As a result, I needed to spend a full week in the hospital instead of 3-4 days. Shortly after my release from the hospital, I began to itch like crazy! Turns out I was allergic to the pain medication. From that point on ibuprofen was my new best friend. A few weeks into my “recovery period, ” I awoke to noises at 2:00 a. m. The house next door was fully engulfed in flames! I stood on the street with other neighbors, watching the flames reaching for nearby treetops, and praying that the fire wouldn’t jump to our adjoining homes. Gratefully, it didn’t. But sleep was difficult after that.

A week-and-a-half after the end of my 8-week recovery period, my mom was put on Hospice. Our family was told she had 2-3 days to live. I loaded up my car and drove to Southern California, prepared to stay as long as necessary. Five weeks later Mom had greatly improved, and I finally headed home.

And I found myself five months behind on my six-month plan to re-launch my previous business.

The Good Stuff

Why am I telling you all this? Because, as I look back on it, I see that a whole lot of GOOD came out of it! I’m NOT saying I enjoyed it at the time – it was a difficult season of my life. In fact, I did a whole lot of kicking and screaming along the way! Can you relate? But as I now sit and reflect back, I can see the joy and the blessings that were right there in the midst of the turmoil. Some of it I was wise enough to recognize in the midst of it – a lot of it I’ve only recently begun to appreciate. Just look at the things that happened as a result:

  • When my job ended, I had time to prepare for my surgery, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

  • The birthday party was a hum dinger! Maybe it was only because my friends were worried about me, but who cares! They showed up! And we had fun!

  • I had a wonderful friend who insisted on going to every single one of my appointments with me – and I was so grateful to have her there. Especially when I got the news about the extent of my upcoming surgery. She listened as I tearfully explained it to her. She hugged me tightly, and then she looked me in the eye, and with a serious face made an incredible joke about it that made us both burst into laughter – which I’m sure perplexed the doctor and nurses on the other side of the door! It still makes me laugh to think about it!

  • My incredible daughter launched a massive email campaign – for family, my friends, and hers – to keep everyone updated on the prognosis, the surgery, and my recovery. She ended up getting emails of encouragement from people around the world! And I got tons of uplifting cards, emails, and calls. That was a big part of my joy in the difficult time.

  • During my recovery, I had people coming out of the woodwork to help me – they brought me meals, ran errands for me, prayed with me, cleaned my house for me. One couple insisted I give them my “Honey-Do” list. They trimmed hedges, caulked my tub, replaced florescent lights, and even installed my new bathroom fixtures for me. I truly felt loved by all these people! Their thoughtfulness made me feel like jumping with joy – although that would have been painful at the time!

  • I’ve always had a great relationship with my mom, but being there with her during her most difficult time was wonderful – for her and for me. Nurses told me they thought my being there had actually made the critical difference and gave her the will to hang on. She’s still with us today.

  • If I’d still been at my old job, I wouldn’t have been able to stay with her as long as I did, especially after being off work for eight weeks following my surgery

  • Because I was thrown off-track of my original six-month plan to go back into my old business of doing corporate consulting, executive coaching, and training, I discovered a whole new focus! And I ended up doing something I LOVE to do even more than what I was doing before. I am now following my passion – encouraging people, through writing, speaking, and motivational workshops.

    In Retrospect

    Eight months ago I had no idea what was in store for me. I wouldn’t have chosen for my life to unfold the way it did. But having gone through what I went through, and now standing on the other side, I couldn’t be happier!

    Sometimes when we’re in the middle of tough times we can’t see anything but the struggle. But there is joy in the struggle. Struggles define our true friends. They help us reassess and re-evaluate our real priorities in life. And if we choose to, we will begin to understand that it’s not the struggles and circumstances that define us, but how we handle them that matters.

    I’ve heard it said that people are like teabags – you don’t know what’s inside of them until they’re put into hot water! What’s in you? What comes out when you find yourself in over your head? How will you respond the next time life hands you an unexpected “surprise”? Will you let it knock you down, or will you take a deep breath and look around for the little joys and blessings that might be overshadowed by the difficulty?

    Sure, we need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the painful feelings that happen in tough times. The feelings are real. But we do have a choice – to wallow in them, or to acknowledge them – while at the same time looking around for the little hints of joy and sunshine that might be trying to peek through the clouds of our stormy circumstances. After all, we find what we look for!

    The Bonus

    There was an added blessing in all of this. Because of my cancer, a friend went in for a long-overdue check up – and was diagnosed with the same cancer. Except that after her surgery, her doctors told her that had they not operated when they did, she may have been beyond saving. Wow.

    We rarely understand or get to see the “Why?” of our circumstances. But I consider myself fortunate to see something so positive come from my misfortune. Would I go through it all over again, for that one reason?

    You betcha!

    Dee Bright is an author, motivational speaker, and personal coach. Her passion is encouraging people - to dream big dreams; to challenge their limiting beliefs; to choose to make positive and desired changes; to live with more joy; and to take action toward becoming all they want to become. She also publishes a motivational ezine, Joyful Living! For your free subscription, go to: http://www.DeeSpeaks.com

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