I have always looked for Joy. I search for it everywhere I go. Seeking Joy is like a treasure hunt; except, in this case, I don't have a map. Honestly, I don't mind the lack of navigational tools because I have grown used to hurling myself into the unknown since he died. With practice, I have become accustom to feeling lost. Now, I am somewhat comfortable being without direction and guidance because I have lived this way for over 500 days.
When you become a widow everything familiar is suddenly lost. The rituals and routines of your old life no longer mark the way. As a widowed person you are forced to sail into uncharted waters. It is incredibly daunting. But, with time, you get used to it. And, you can even begin to flourish in the open water.
I am different because he died. I am 'better' in some significant ways because of the devastation that I am living through; but, the price I paid for this growth is too steep. No gain will ever be worth what I've lost. But, there is no changing it. Mike has died. Wishing it was different does nothing to help me and it does not undo his death. I have to stay the course and be grateful for the good things that I still have in my life.
In a very real way, Mike's death has brought me closest to my true self. His death is leading me to some place I need to go. For a long time I believed that I was drifting aimlessly. I assumed that I was lost, so I desperately searched for direction. I was tirelessly drafting plans in my mind because I thought I had to "fix" my life. I felt compelled to correct what had been wronged. But, now I know that all my efforts were needless.
There is a plan at work here; and, in order for this plan to be successful, I am not required to "fix" or do anything. In fact, the best thing that I can do is step aside. Before I realized all this, I was my biggest obstacle. I was getting in my own way. The truth is, I do not need to carefully map out my own journey. With this realization, I no longer feel the need to control the direction of my sails. I have stopped flailing in the water because I trust that something bigger than me is at work. I believe that my best interests are being served. I do not need to intervene because everything will work out as it is meant to. In short, I have faith. I know that I will be okay.
The reality is, I am exposed as I float out in the open water. Anything is possible. I might be a lot of things, but I am not lost. I am exactly where I am meant to be. I may feel that I am without direction. But, I am drifting directly towards my destination. Everything is as it should be - I can feel it. I am not required to do anything. I don't have to steer in the right direction. In fact, I have to do less, not more. When Mike was alive he used to say "stay where you're at, I'll come where you are". And, this is exactly what I need to do now.
If I am drifting in the open sea,
Then, Mike is the water I am floating on.
I am not drowning like I thought I was.
He's got me.
I am being supported by the water.
I am being lead to where I need to be.
All I need to do is "stay where (I'm) at, (because) he will come where I'm am." I wish I remembered what Mike told me early. This would have been a whole lot easier. Nonetheless, I figured it out. I remembered his promise; and, this has brought me a great deal of peace. And, it's nice because I haven't felt peaceful in a long, long time...
Since he died the only thing predictable has been change. For nearly a year and a half, I have made all my life choices and decisions - without him. When your spouse dies you learn to be self-reliant because that is your only choice. No one is capable of supporting me, encouraging me or championing me the way he did. I miss this, but I do not need a cheer squad to be efficient. I miss Mike with every fiber of my being, but I do not need him to live. When he was alive, it was not his responsibility to breath life into me. And, in death, this remains the same.
I am enough. Just me. On my own. I am all that I need. I always have been capable and reliable; but, now, I am more confident in myself because I have been put to the test. I have to do life myself, without him; and, all these months later, I am "okay". I've got this - by myself.
This is not to say that I don't want Mike back.
But, there is a big difference between what I need and what I want.
(This is the case for all of us.)
In truth, some days, I do not live up to my potential. I don't want to suggest that I have all this stuff figured out because I don't. And, it's likely that I never will. Often, I wander mindlessly through my day. And, it is likely that I am side stepping the joy that is placed right in front of me. But, I don't worry about it. This is grief. This is life. It is what it is.
What matters most is that I actively seek joy - everyday. However, I do not obsess about collecting joy like I once did. I think the value here is in the seeking, not necessarily the reaping. I know that I don't need to hoard joy and store it up for a rainy day. There is plenty of joy to go around. Joy is everywhere, all around us. There is no shortage of joy.
Successfully seeking joy requires a certain mindset. Mike was a natural seeker of joy. He found joy everywhere he went. Everything that I know about joy, I learned from him. He showed me that joy is not something you spot using only your eyes. Mike taught me that authentic joy is only revealed to us when our hearts are open to it. And, his heart was wide open to joy, and to life. It was beautiful to see life through his eyes. I know that I am a better woman for it. I also know that some people never recognize the joy of an ordinary moment because their eyes can not see what their hearts do not embrace. I am grateful that I was taught to seek joy by an expert. The art of seeking joy is one of the best gifts Mike gave to me. I am profoundly grateful that Mike's influence on my life continues, in countless ways, even though he is gone. The way that I find and seek joy has his signature written all over it. And, this is one of the ways he lives on through me.
The beauty of my new life is that I am 'free' in a way that I have never been before. I no longer strive to have "all my ducks lined up in a row". I don't look for and crave order the way I used to. Sometimes I still want predictability and a well rehearsed plan, but I no longer spend hours carefully examining and planning my life. I still prefer to calculate the risks and gains; but, I don't get as anxious about the outcome now. I know that I do not need to come out on top every time. I have proved to myself that I can adjust to whatever life hands to me. And, most importantly, Mike's death has taught me that life happens to us. There is no way to keep one step ahead in life. No matter how carefully you plan things, the unexpected occurs. And, sometimes there is even joy hidden in the unforeseen.
Life is unpredictable. Unanticipated events happen. Abrupt changes occur even when you are well organized. This is life. Change is the only thing constant. And, because of this, I know that my life and your life will change - in time. Then, when we are comfortable, our lives will shift again. This is the ever changing nature of life. What tomorrow holds is unknown for us all. And, in this uncertainty, there is also endless possibility and boundless opportunity. Being a Joy Seeker, I choose to focus on the potential for good. I think that it is foolish to believe in anything less.
Seek Joy today. I promise, it's there for you.