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The Importance of Finding Joy on Days Filled With Pain

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Yesterday morning, I pressed snooze at least half a dozen times, overwhelmed with regret. The muscles in my back and between my ribs were tight and spasming with each movement. My four years post-op hip suddenly felt like an intruder, too big for the space it was occupying. Getting out of bed seemed like an impossibility. All because I had chosen to ignore the bottle of baby pink pills on my bedside table the night before. Muscle relaxers. They give my body a chance to rest, to reenergize, to prepare for each long day ahead.

After close to an hour of mental preparation for what I knew would be a hellish day, I trekked to the kitchen to make some tea and pack my lunch for work. The muscles in my back were already protesting each movement, begging me to lie back down. I grabbed a heating pad, my favorite ice pack and a bottle of 800-mg ibuprofen on my way out the door.

Living with a chronic illness sucks. My days are easily consumed by anxiety over subpar medical care, the mounting expenses for my medications and constant appointments, guilt over the stress it must cause my family, boyfriend and close friends. As if that weren’t enough, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep, something hurts.


Unless I have to, I probably won’t be able to go out with my friends on any given weekend. The simple idea of going somewhere “for fun” exhausts too much of my hard-to-find energy. I definitely won’t be able to attend the music festival everyone’s excited about or go camping this summer when my work friends ask. When I’m in a flare-up, events are a thing of the past, a daydream.

This is where joy comes in.

Joy lives in the cracks, and is disguised as ordinary. It can seem impossible to find on the days when you wake up and can so clearly see the odds stacked against you. But if you keep looking, it’s there. Waiting.

For me… Joy is reaching my hands underneath my pillow when I wake up in the night, invading the last cool space in the bed. Joy is seeing my boyfriend’s smile stretch across his face and his arms open up when I walk in the door after work. Joy is a clean room. Joy is the family of birds who live outside my window, chirping loudly as I type this. What are they saying to one another? Joy is a bite of spaghetti that is way too big for my mouth. Joy is a smile, as I gaze up at the ceiling during Upward-Facing Dog. At least my body can still do this. Joy is my softest blanket, fresh out of the dryer. Joy is the wet spot my cat leaves as her face pushes urgently against my arm. Joy is a surprising conversation with a new friend, or maybe even an old friend.

Joy can be a color, a word, a moment, a memory, a song. It can punctuate a sentence, or it can wash over you like sunlight. Joy is something you take in small doses, as often as you can, to help get you through the toughest moments, the longest days. No prescription required.

Joy is simple, and it is everywhere.

Joy keeps my heart whole, even when my body is not.

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Originally published: May 25, 2017
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