I Want to Share My Friend JOY with You- Real Joy Amidst Real Suffering

I want to share JOY and her story to encourage you. A dear friend, who teaches about how practicing returning to joy from the 6 distressing emotions, was diagnosed in April with an aggressive form of cancer right in the middle of the rise of COVID. She had to stay in the hospital for 28 days most of them separated from her husband as COVID shut down any visitors. This all happened very fast. Within a week she was in the hospital fighting for her life. Here is what knocked my socks off, she shared joy with everyone she met and boy did the hospital need joy, especially now. Her desire upon entering the hospital was that she would bless all those she met. I was on the phone with her one day and heard when her new Sudanese friend entered her room. We ended the call. When she called me back her voice was full of even more joy. When she shared joy, I watched it multiply inside of her and those around her. Joy is contagious!

What also astounded me was this friend never denied how hard it was to be separated from her husband, the poking, prodding, chemo, nights without sleep due to an infection, and how cold the sticky lotion the nurses put on her every day to protect her from COVID/MRSA. She did not use spiritual language that made me feel disconnected from her. No, she shared it like it was that day for her and then she would say with joy in her voice, “Last night my nurse and I had a wonderful conversation at 3 am. The nurse ran in to talk to me when she heard I was awake.” To give context, my friend was up to go the bathroom and wanted to head back to bed but this dear nurse needed to have some time with her. So my friend made time for her, she had joy to share and loved sharing. I asked her how did you do this in the hospital? She said, I watched my mom do this and I want to be like her (I want to be like my people). I also know she practices returning to joy from distressing emotions(sad, shame, anger, fear, hopeless despair and disgust). I will not forget what I saw her live in front of me as she saw her mother live it in front of her. The nurses were sad to see her leave, in the midst of her distress she entered their distress and acted like herself, my friend is a carrier of joy, so I call her JOY. At another time I heard the hospital doctor say, there is my favorite patient! I smiled and said to her, did you hear that? Joy smiled her beautiful smile.

JOY, my friend, is teaching me how to return to joy from a distressing situation and emotions, by watching her and then practicing myself. I wanted to share her and her story with you, to share joy, to share something beautiful that helps us see what is possible in the worst of times. Joy does change the brain, one day at a time. What is happening in your life today or this past week that remembering my friend, JOY, might help you take a distressing situation and see another possible option? JOY could have sat in her hospital room, crying, scared, despairing, isolated, angry, miserable and frustrated but instead there was light, a fragrance that attracted others into her room because JOY looked for ways to see what she was grateful in this moment, on this day. How does she do this? First she doesn’t deny/dismiss her distressed feelings, she feels them. She felt her sadness and fear about being separated from her husband. JOY shared it freely and tenderly with her those who love her and her nurses. Some of the nurses cried with her but JOY was able to bring them all back to joy and being glad to be together. JOY remembered what it is like her to do, it is like her to not deny distressing emotions (especially with spiritual language) and to practice in the midst of the distress to return to joy.

JOY loves telling stories that help you see things as they are and how to return to joy even when the situation doesn’t change. JOY still had to stay in the hospital, during a pandemic, alone but JOY decided, I am going to act like myself no matter what comes my way, I carry joy. JOY’s ability to practice joy in distressing situations and emotions did not come easy. JOY had to learn how to do this, she has practiced for years so when she entered the hospital in April, she had a tank full of joy capacity and a real example in her mother.

Stay tuned on this blog to learn and practice how to return to joy. If it feels impossible, think of my friend JOY, she would tell you herself, “I am a different person, my boarding school friends all notice a difference.” I can share with you that her joy is contagious and real but she had to learn how to grow joy. Let’s do this together.

Thank you JOY for showing me and many others the way back to joy in the midst of suffering and a pandemic. I am so very grateful for you!