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It wasn’t a walk in the park to restore happiness when life was hard. But it is doable.
Who hasn’t had the thought that life shouldn’t be this hard. I shouldn’t be struggling. Why me? How could this be happening? Why is this happening?
I know I have had these thoughts and more.
Life can be hard. We all experience hardship, challenges and pain. And some, sadly, experience more hardship than others in this world.
Many people find themselves in situations where life is hard more than it’s not. I’ve been there more than once so I’m not advocating one size fits all when trying to restore at least a small slice of happiness in what often feels like an unjust world.
I don’t know what your struggles are. What hardships of life you are currently experiencing. I have no idea whether you’re healthy or not, poor or not, have supportive friends and family or not. Life ’s hardships are many and variable and in any case I don’t have a recipe for restoring happiness that will work for everyone.
When life was hard and led to despair
I was in the depth of despair when my husband passed away. I had lost something truly precious. Great love and emotional and financial security had been pulled out from under me and I felt guilty that he was gone and I was still here.
I was struggling like never before and although this happened many years ago, the memories of the day he passed away remain fresh in my mind. Looking out of the car window on the way home from the hospital after his passing, my brain wouldn’t or couldn’t grasp why others were carrying on as though nothing had happened, or why the world kept on turning in the same way.
I struggled for what seemed an eternity with no respite from the grief and loneliness of loss. I was stuck in a tunnel of sadness, able to see the light at the end, but unable to turn my gaze away from what used to be towards what could be. I was immobilized by pain, loss and fear of the unknown.
I’d heard and read about ‘moving on.’ But what exactly did that mean? Does it mean to forget? To wake up one day totally over a loss? I really didn’t know. But what I do know is that I decided to define ‘moving on’ for myself and that there were certain things I would choose to do that might help me in turning towards the light of the tunnel that had held me in it’s grip for what seemed like an eternity. And maybe, just maybe I could find myself embracing the beauty and happiness of the life I still had left to live, even as I missed and still longed for what what was lost.
I allowed the love and kindness of my friends and family to hold me up while I healed.
In Japan there is an art form called Kintsugi.
It’s the art of piecing together something of value, something that is treasured that has been broken.
The shattered pieces are put back together with a glue that is mixed with powdered gold making the cracks themselves a work of art.
It felt as though I too had been like a piece of pottery, shattered into sharp shards.
But with the same reverence and respect displayed in Kintsugi my damaged, scarred person was given the golden glue of time, patience and love and like a beautifully restored Japanese vase I was being mended.
I had accepted the gentle mending of love and care others had given to my shattered heart.
Meditation has been summed up as ‘a mind body practice including attention and a focused attitude.” Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can change the structure of the brain which can decrease fear, anxiety and stress and lead to greater health and wellbeing.
I didn’t choose this route back then, instead I opted for a subliminal mind programming, called something like Create Health. I didn’t choose meditation because I knew nothing about it, remember this all happened years and years ago, when the idea of meditation wasn’t mainstream. So it wasn’t really an option for me at the time.
And even though I was pretty unfamiliar with the the concept of listening to subliminal anything, there happened to be some information on the cancer support sheet I’d received, that mentioned it, so I thought I’d give it a try and it might help me to maintain some level of physical, and mental health. Something I was desperately in need of.
And this mind programming began to have an effect on me.
When life is hard and challenges abound it’s easy to lose faith in our abilities and ourselves.
And I had lost trust in myself to deal with life on my own.
If your life is hard and filled with unmanageable challenges and you’re wondering how you’re going to get through it, I highly recommend finding ways to restore faith in yourself. And I promise you, ‘just be confident’ isn’t one of them. Although there are ways to support you in this, it’s hard to apply them when life is hard.
I began with small promises I made to myself, ones that I knew I could keep, otherwise why waste my precious energy?
This process does take a little time, but so what. Life continues to happen, time will pass anyway whether you’re applying those small promises or not, so we might as well use the time to try things that might help!
I began to remind myself of things that used to feel good and chose some things that would fit into a small window of time. Initially I looked for things that used to make me smile, lose track of time or feel positive. Some were silly but they felt restorative and I took a little time to work on focusing on them. It was difficult at first.
But like any time we need to work on ourselves at first we try in vain and maybe find ourselves getting a little better. If not, we might find it isn’t the thing that helps and that’s okay.
I gravitated to where I found things that were of service to others that felt good. Things like volunteering to simply hold a baby, that some hospitals in our area were seeking volunteers for.
After that I signed up to be a guardian ad-litum, something the state we live in allows, and then hospice. Not at same time!
I’m not advocating this for everyone – whatever works for you – whatever feels good for you. It could be as simple as calling a friend who makes you laugh. Whatever you choose, know that relief is at the ready to fill a space, whatever it is you feel able to do.
As Grace Marshall, author of Struggle: The Surprising Truth, Beauty And Opportunity Hidden in Life’s Shi*ttier Moments had to say:
“The human capacity to rise up from life’s shittier moments is incredible.”
A big defining moment wasn’t how I restored my happiness when life was hard
We’re all made up of souls with different tendencies, unique talents and life circumstances, and too often we can overestimate the significance of that one big moment and underestimate the value of those many little blocks of events that when added up are just as magical.
To restore a little more happiness, celebrate every little habit, every little event and every small step of progress because it’s those little things that we do that ultimately encompass who we are, what our lives will be like and whether we’re headed towards happiness or stuck in a tunnel of sadness, fear and unhappiness.
I know it’s no picnic to restore your happiness when life is hard, whatever it is that’s making it so damned hard right now, but my hope is that knowing it is doable can perhaps encourage, inspire or motivate you to give it a whirl.
Encourage one another.
Love your advice here Elle! Especially like this part, “To restore a little more happiness, celebrate every little habit, every little event and every small step of progress…”
Thank you for sharing your inspirational example and story, Elle. Like you, I restored my happiness a little at a time. And also like you, it taught me that my happiness is up to me and that I have the power to effect it through meditation and many of the same restorative things you found helpful. I know by sharing our stories, we help others. Thank you.
Elle, Thanks for sharing your personal story. It is so inspiring! It’s wonderful that you found ways to care for yourself (like meditation in its current state) but also amazing that you also re-found yourself by giving to others. A beautiful story!