“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
Some of my favorite little people spent the night a few weekends ago. After making homemade pizzas and playing games, the smallest explored our living room. She discovered a gold confetto (a single piece of confetti) underneath a bookshelf. I smiled as she handed it to me, a memento from my 50th birthday. She giggled gleefully when I told her she could keep it. To her, this tiny forgotten party detritus (which might be an indicator of my housekeeping skills) was a treasure, not a piece of trash where the rest of the confetti had long gone.
A few days later, my sister sent me a Ted Talk from Ingrid Fetell Lee about “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It”. She interviewed people across the world asking what brings them joy. She found that bubbles, cherry blossoms, and ice cream cones with sprinkles universally bring people joy. She compiled a list of other items and found some patterns in joy, encouraging listeners to actively seek joy.
As I listened to her, Ingrid mentioned that a single piece of confetti is a confetto. BOOM! I felt two random moments in my life, a little person finding a treasure under my bookshelf and this Ted Talk, collide for a purpose! This happens to me a lot, two seemingly random moments connecting for a greater purpose. When I find these connections, I pay attention, exploring what they could mean. I know that psychological research can explain some of these phenomena. For example, when you buy a certain type of car, like the Nissan Rogue my son-in-law just purchased, you suddenly see a lot more of that car. This doesn’t mean that there is an increase in Nissan Rogue vehicles, it just means you are more aware of them. And sometimes when I find connections, this principle applies. This random fact made an impact on me, and I am now looking for it in other places. But in this case, Lydia found the confetto before I knew that a word existed for one piece of confetti. In other words, the confetto became illuminated after the fact. And just maybe God was trying to show me something.
February was a challenging month. In south central PA, the weather vacillated between teasing warm, spring breezes and cold, wet days. We had no significant snowfall, making the brown earth more dismal. This pattern not only plays havoc on my mental state, but also my RA, making walking difficult along with my daily tasks. Some days I crawled out of bed struggling with fatigue. Hot coffee and podcasts made days manageable, while I set smaller goals rather than my normal busyness.
Reading, which typically helps me escape, didn’t help my state. Researching my memoir, I have been reading some hard books on trauma and its impact. The latest book, What My Bones Know, tells the story of Stephanie Foo and her healing from complex trauma disorder. The research she quotes from the book illuminates the strong link of my medical issues to my childhood trauma. I wrote in my last post that you are responsible for your healing, but that is concerning your thoughts and emotions. I can’t control how my physical body responded to the trauma, making me more susceptible to not only the autoimmune disorders I have but a host of other conditions, including the reason for my hysterectomy. For a few days, I processed my anger over something I couldn’t control in my childhood. I thought about all the time, money, and energy my disorders have cost me. And this processing added to my fatigue.
Looking back on the last four weeks, I was suffering from mild seasonal slump. It is not something I realized until the confetti. After sending the Ted Talk, my sister wrote a sweet message saying “You have the ability to find joy”. I replied to her with a modest thanks, not feeling particularly joyful at that moment. A week later, after an impromptu conversation with a business acquaintance, the woman told her husband in front of me that I was delightful. This time, I paid attention, realizing God was illuminating the importance of joy and delight.
In no way am I minimizing seasonal affective disorder or clinical depression. These are serious conditions that require medical treatment. As a preventive measure, next year I am purchasing sun therapy lights to help during the dark days of winter. And in no way do I think looking for joy and choosing delight can change a person’s clinical depression. Medicine, coping strategies and a large support group are only some ways to combat depression. But for me, it was more of a depression slump, and I needed confetti to remind me to choose joy.
Notice, I said confetti, not confetto. On my 50th birthday party last May, I walked in to shouts of surprise as gold confetti sprayed out in front of me. Surrounded by the people I loved with hundreds of pieces of confetti blanketing my path, I felt celebrated! I loved the confetti, gathering it up after the party and placing it in a glass bowl on my bookshelf. Later, Joel, my grandson, delightfully played with the confetti, spilling it out of the bowl, throwing it in the air, and refilling the bowl. I kept the confetti until fall when I replaced it with pinecones. Ingrid Fetell Lee, along with the patterns of color and circular objects, emphasized the importance of abundance in finding joy. She pointed out that a picture of one piece of confetto doesn’t seem to induce joy, instead it is the abundance of confetti that sparks joy. And even though my little friend was delighted in the single confetto, I am sure her squeal of delight would have been louder if she found a jar full of confetti!
My sister was right, I can find joy. It is not some sort of superpower I have, it is something I have purposely cultivated in my life. And it’s not rose-colored glasses I wear to avoid dealing with hard things. It is influenced by the women in my life who I wrote about in Celebrating Sheroes. Throughout my life. these two women have expressed joy consistently, demonstrating it in ways that fit their personalities. But the last couple of years have been hard for both of them, potentially changing their outlook. One lost her husband of 45 years, the other lost two brothers in one year. In addition, both have had to deal with some serious medical issues that altered their lives. Yet, both are choosing joy again. My aunt Brenda met Tim, who walked with her in her grief and became her best friend. She is marrying him this month, choosing to find joy with a partner once again. My aunt Debbie will be taking a trip to Arizona, catching breathtaking views at sunrise in a hot air balloon. They are both choosing joy, not to erase the hard, but to move forward in their life, creating new memories.
February was hard. But in March I am choosing abundant joy. It has already started off with a whirlwind visit with my grandchildren and daughter-in-law. Baby snuggles and toddler squeals filled our home for a short 18 hours, but created memories that will last forever. Terry and I celebrated the 28th anniversary of the day we met by ministering together at a marriage seminar. In a week, I will be making confetti pancakes with my niece to celebrate her birthday. My flight home will land in DC while the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Terry and I hope to walk a little in the city, eating a James Beard Award-nominated chef’s chicken sandwich while taking in the sweet fragrance of the blossoms. The rest of the month I hope to find my groove again in walking, hiking, and exploring.
And I hope to make the same impact on others that my Sheroes have made on me. I, too, will face more hard moments in life, and I will have to work through grief, loss, and possible future medical issues. But I pray that I will continue to choose joy so that those behind me can see the power of finding confetti underneath the bookshelves!
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