Thankfully, the answer to this question - for today - is No. Thankfully.
Generally, if I'm having a bad day, and feeling a bit sorry for myself or my situation, I will ask myself the question, "Was anyone in my family diagnosed with cancer today?" To-date, the answer has been 'No.' That reply to my rhetorical question has always left me feeling not only less sorry for myself, but actually grateful for my own problems. The word 'cancer' instills a chilling fear in most of us, and rightly so, given that it literally consumes the being - physically, mentally, and emotionally - of its host and those who love them.
Life can present other problems that consume us, as well. Many suffer with physical ailments that are as debilitating as cancer. Many are plagued by a past that prevents them from moving forward. Many mourn the loss of a loved one. Many worry about getting by each day without sufficient economic resources. Many agonize about which way to turn when the right path is unclear. Each of us faces issues that can suck the life out of us - physically, mentally, and emotionally - in the same way cancer does.
As we struggle to find solutions to life's problems, we are often paralyzed by constant worry and focus on them, leaving us exhausted and lacking hope, which leaves us in a fragile state, unable to face and overcome them. While difficult to do, in the midst of these struggles, if we take time to consider what is good and well, no matter how trivial it may seem - the blue sky, the singing birds, the passerby who says 'Hello,' the food to eat, the bed to sleep in - and to be thankful for these things, our souls can again be filled with the ability to overcome adversity and move forward. Gratitude is a powerful force.
My dear friend was recently diagnosed with cancer. While she is not a member of my family, and therefore the answer to the question, "Was anyone in my family diagnosed with cancer today?" is still 'No,' given that she is my dear friend, the appropriate answer seems more like 'Sort of.' I have been counting my blessings, knowing that my issues are not as significant as are hers. Of the blessings I am counting, my family and friends are front and center. I know that to be true for my friend, as well. In addition to the tremendous medical treatment she will be receiving, it is the love she is feeling that is helping her overcome this most devastating of issues. Seeing the impact gratitude can have in the face of one of the most terrifying situations life can throw at a person, is further evidence that it works, in my opinion.
When life's problems, no matter how seemingly insurmountable, consume you, take a moment to be grateful for all that is good, so that your heart and soul may be filled with the power gratitude brings to overcome anything.
Note: I have personally found gratitude to be a tremendous healer, and practice expressing my gratitude daily. Recently, a reader posted a comment regarding the importance of expressing gratitude in response to one of my posts. I felt the need to write about this important daily practice immediately. I hope you find it as effective as we do. Please accept my gratitude for your interest.
'Is Joy Enough?' is what I kept asking myself this past week, as the stress of my days left me feeling exhausted, delusional, worried, and searching for which way to turn. Having written JOY: What My Heart Taught Me over a number of years, during which time I experienced stress in its various forms, I know that JOY is the answer. I had simply forgotten how in the middle of extreme stress, JOY can seem elusive.
Today, August 5, 2017, marks the 5th anniversary of a mass shooting by a white supremacist that killed six worshippers and wounded six others in a Sikh Temple. It remains one of the worst hate crimes committed in our country's history. As is always true after something so unthinkable occurs, people were left asking 'Why?' Singh Kaleka, whose father was killed in the shooting, contacted Arno Michaelis, former white supremacist, to begin a dialogue in an effort to answer the question, 'Why?' Sheepishly, Michaelis agreed to meet, feeling the ideology he had once espoused and propagated in society was to blame.
In expressing why someone would do something so hurtful, Michaelis cites internalized hate. Often the hate is born out of life experience that leaves one feeling alone, hurt, scared, with nowhere to turn, which then leads to a harboring of ill toward others, and is fed, because it is the only thing over which the person has control in his/her life.
Michaelis's transformation from living a life of hate to one of love was born out of the love shown him by people he encountered in his everyday life, despite the fact that he hated them and treated them in a hurtful way. Over time, he came to see that their way was better, and little by little, his heart was opened to love, and he, too, experienced the joy in living. Michaelis has written a book, My Life After Hate, in which he chronicles in graphic detail the distressed life he led prior to allowing the love in his heart to lead him to a life of joy.
Today, Michaelis and Kaleka, through the organization they co-founded, Serve 2 Unite, work to help others experiencing trauma, hurt, and pain, knowing that those states can lead a person to a life filled with hate, as it did for Michaelis, and for the Sikh Temple shooter. Michaelis understands that hurt people hurt others, and seeks to use his personal story of transformation and reformation, in the same way Kaleka heals through helping others, to promote love and joy as the way of life.
While my stress this week did not cause me to feel hate, it did bring about more negativity toward those whom I felt may have been part of the cause of my stress. While I was able to bring my stress under control in a short period of time, I understood that it may not have been possible without the people and life situation with which I am blessed. Listening to the stories of the Sikh Temple shooting, and particularly the story of Michaelis and Kaleka, left me deeply moved, and deeply committed to continue to summon joy in my heart, particularly during times of distress and stress, to let love rule.
Is JOY enough? Yes.
author of "JOY"