I grew up reading fairy tales where every story ends with, “And they were married and lived happily ever after.” So, when my handsome prince came along, I was absolutely positive my marriage would be perfectly harmonious and my life wonderfully trial free.
Then I got married.
I knew I had married the only man in the world for me and after a beautiful wedding day filled with family and feasting, he lifted me onto his white stallion and together we galloped off into the sunset in search of our happily ever after. Well, actually, we loaded our meager belongings into his car and drove south to Mexico City, with me crying all the way because I was not ready to leave my family, my home, and my country so soon after returning from a mission to Ecuador. But Mexico City is where he was raised, it was where his family lived and most importantly, it was where he planned to spend the rest of his life working in the family business.
Our first year of marriage was neither harmonious nor trial free. We spent the first six months either living with relatives or in an apartment with walls blackened from smog, and water that ran only two days in seven. Wes went off to work six days a week, leaving me home alone, in a country where I had no friends, no family of my own, and no diversion. (I tried driving once and it scared me to death so I never tried again). Being a person who thrives on being busy and social, I felt utterly lonely and depressed. And, I soon discovered, pregnant.
Over the next six months the Mexican economy collapsed, making it impossible for us to earn a living, so my husband immigrated to Utah (yes, he was a Mexican citizen) where we hoped for a better life. Happy to be back with family, life was better for me, but difficult for Wes who had to find a new dream.
After a difficult pregnancy, Camille was born. The insurance company that should have covered the cost went bankrupt and couldn’t pay, and while driving home from the hospital following her birth, Wes was broadsided by an uninsured drunk driver who totaled our car. Overwhelmed by the debt suddenly heaped upon us, still recovering from complications to child birth and lacking transportation, we would sit at dinner together in stony silence.
And I wondered . . . whatever happened to ‘happily ever after’?
Now many years later, I realize I was just as naïve to think life would never get better, as I was to think it would hold no challenges. Real, true, meaningful life comes with both good and bad—together. My father sent me a quote I love, and have posted on my side bar. It says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.”
So I gave some thought to those things in my life, that even in stormy weather bring me great joy. Here is a list of ten of them, not in any particular order.
1. Looking across a crowded room filled with people who want my husband’s attention and having him look directly at me and wink. (I love that!)
2. Family dinners where all who live at home are gathered together. These are harder now, with Kathryn working, but when we all happen to be home at the same time, my heart swells with joy.
3. Enjoying nature. Whether it is hiking, walking in the rain, seeing a sunset, or watching the quail in my front yard early in the morning, taking note of the beauty in nature always makes me happy.
4. Hearing laughter coming from another room. One of life’s most simple pleasures is listening to my daughters laughing together in another room while they do dishes and/or share stories.
5. Anything funny that makes me laugh. Following the birth of my third child, I struggled with postpartum depression. I didn’t realize it at the time though. I just thought I was tired and miserable. However, six months after her birth we were on vacation in California. While jumping waves in the ocean, I was hit hard by a wave that pushed me under the water. When I surfaced, I started to laugh. My laughter sounded so strange in my ears and I realized it had been a very long time since I had laughed at anything. But that moment seemed to break a barrier around my heart and from then on I got better. From that experience, however, I also learned to appreciate very much the people who bring laughter into my life.
6. Hot running water—particularly in a bathtub filled with bubbles. On my mission we rarely had hot water, and when we did it ran only for a few minutes. I have never turned on a water faucet since, without expressing gratitude for hot running water.
7. Time spent with friends. There are few things that bring me greater joy than an unexpected telephone call or email from a friend. And there are few things I would rather do than go to lunch with, or spend the evening, long into the night, visiting with those who are dear to me.
8. Learning something new. I love to learn. I love to visit with people who are different than I am, travel to far away countries, or read a book that teaches me something I didn’t know before. There is something magical about learning, I think, that makes me feel so very alive.
9. Doing something hard. It isn’t that I like to do hard things, but I really like how I feel after I have done them. It always brings such a sense of accomplishment and boosts my self-esteem.
10. Perform a service. My mission president always told us when we were discouraged to get out and serve. I have found that to be true. It is a basic principle that service brings joy. I recently had an experience with this. On our last visiting teaching appointment of the day we came to a home of a sister whose kitchen was filled with meat and vegetables needing to be bottled that day. So, putting away our message and putting on our aprons, we went to work helping her. I spent the next two hours browning meat and peeling potatoes. But I also spent the time, working and visiting with two wonderful, strong and spiritual sisters, whose association brought great joy into my life that day.
So there you have it. Ten ways that even in the storms of life, help me to find . . . joy in the journey.