Monday, July 20, 2015

Joy and Pain, Pain and Joy

I have spent more than a week in a great deal of pain.

The kind of pain that consumes your life. 

And takes your breath away.

I didn’t know it took my breath away until after multiple medical appointments to get it figured out, and as soon as the pain medication I was finally prescribed kicked in, I suddenly felt like I could breathe.

I always thought I had a high threshold for pain – I even had doctors tell me so – but this week I almost couldn’t take it. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but there was absolutely no position whether sitting, standing, laying, walking, crouching, or curled up in the fetal position that I wasn’t inwardly screaming.

Partway through wallowing in this ordeal it dawned on me that I’d better start practicing what I preach. I have stated – in this blog - that joy is something you can choose. Well, what better time to prove it!

I feel I need to say here that I’m not making a statement about mental illness. I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness and can’t speak for those who have. I have no idea if choosing joy is an option in those circumstances, though it would be an interesting study.

In my present circumstance, however, I decided to peer through the pain and locate some of my best “joy bubbles” on which to focus.  Things that set the joy bubbles … well, bubbling.
I eventually came up with 25, some of which I put into practice and others I spent time thinking about.

Here they are in no particular order:


1.              Pink
2.              An actual real letter in the mail for me
3.              The way my grandson calls me Maa-ma
4.              Creativity
5.              The meadowlark's song
6.              Cloud watching
7.              A new bookmark
8.              Walking down a school hallway when everyone else is in class
9.              Just stepping IN to a fine arts college or university, where the creativity in the air is distinct and palpable.
10.          Presents – for me                                   
11.          A full pantry
12.          New piano music to learn
13.          Surprises of kindness
14.          Sky
15.          Wind
16.          The sound of the English horn
17.          Yellow roses
18.          An organized drawer
19.          Good music played/sung well
20.          A surprising and well-turned phrase               
21.          The smell of clover
22.          Wild daisies
23.          Walking barefoot in soft grass
24.          Quiet
25.          A genuine smile from a stranger

And you know what? It worked. It got my mind off the pain and focused on my many gifts from God, and His goodness to me - through people, through nature, through music.

Later in the week I happened to exclaim, “What a great day!”
To which the Cowboy remarked, “That is quite the pain medication.”

Little did he know that, pain medication aside, I had decided to choose joy.


  1. Your list is a great example of how accessible God has made those things that can bring us joy, if we choose to focus on them. I love #1 (in no particular order!) For mental illness, I have been diagnosed, and something like your list has been my strategy for a number of years now. When depression hit in the past, I would be terrified that I was slipping back under the murky water, never to surface again. These days, I acknowledge the feeling, but I tell myself I know it's temporary. Then I consciously spend time just looking around, counting all the gifts I still have, regardless of depression. I can THINK joy, even if I can't FEEL it. And you know what? It always passes! (I'm glad the pain meds are working! Thank you Lord for pharmaceuticals!)

    1. Thank you for your perspective on this Bobbi. I was hoping that choosing joy was something that was possible even in mental illness. "I can THINK joy, even if I can't FEEL it." So true.

  2. Being able to choose gratitude is such a gift! I am glad you are feeling better.

  3. Thank you Lynn. Yes, our choice to be thankful and joyous can definitely change our perspective.

  4. This beautiful blog shows your beautiful insight given by a beautiful and loving God. Thanks for sharing, Jolene.