Joy beyond the bundle

Joy beyond the bundle

Having lived in Winnipeg 24 years—my whole adult life, one would think I’d have made peace with winter by now, but one would be wrong. Last year I was really confronted about my attitude towards Winterpeg when someone shared the perspective that I can refuse to find joy in the cold and snow but then I will have less joy, yet still the same amount of cold and snow! It actually worked. We had our coldest and longest winter of my lifetime this year and for the first time I didn’t just tolerate it, I embraced it! It was so freeing! And that wasn’t the end of my liberation— this revelation triggered another one as well.

It is a perspective I actually heard years before; joy is not based on circumstances. Unlike happiness, joy transcends our situations, our relationships and our achievements. Like I realized with winter, where circumstances are not within my control to change, why should I let it dictate my level of enjoyment for four or five months of the year? Why should anything I can’t control dictate the joy I experience in life?

This was just the epiphany I needed at that time.

With the emphasis heavily on the love + marriage = baby carriage formula, one can easily absorb a different perspective, that joy is primarily found in a bundle at the end of that equation. In addition, I also had my own personal reasons that I made motherhood my holy grail of joy, namely my perceived inability to successfully achieve anything else. Motherhood was the one thing I was sure of that I wouldn’t fail at. Yet with over 50 cycles of failure under my belt, I soon realized this couldn’t possibly be the path to joy I thought it was. Infertility had already caused so much loss in my life. I became determined I was not going to lose out on joy too, and I began to search for where the elusive joy really was.

Eager to begin I started looking for joy in all the wrong places. I was still somehow caught up in my ability to do something to make me joyful, rather than joy as a state of being. I pursued all sorts of potential purposes which helped me to see a brighter future and not cling to motherhood so tightly, but it really just shifted my striving. I felt I was on the right track though. I was shedding the darkness of loss I had felt shrouded in, and light was more than just a speck at the end of a tunnel.

Hope, which once was a nasty four-letter word, was beginning to open me up to possibilities once again.

I didn’t feel like I was on that incline very long before I felt shoved back into the pit. In our seventh year of trying to conceive, we faced multiple losses; two miscarriages, two career paths, three mentors, and family-wide health issues. Yet, while we felt grief and sadness, what we hadn’t lost was hope and light. We had wonderful communities around us who supported and encouraged us. We had a stronger relationship with each other. We had found ourselves with a gratitude woven throughout, like the strong thread holding together a patchwork quilt. Not every piece, in and of itself, was something we treasured, but together they reflected the fabric of our lives, with all its varying textures, strengths and designs, and we saw it as beautiful. With that realization, we discovered, gratitude was the precursor to joy.

Just like winter where we couldn’t control the bareness of the season, we looked for other ways to bring life back into the picture. We chose to move closer to the fire rather than lament the cold. We decided to dance under the light of the stars on those long, dark nights. It turned out that joy was not so elusive after all.

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