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  • jeniferfoster2

In search of joy...

This morning, I have this thought I’m trying to grab a hold of. I’m hoping you don’t mind if I wrestle it out here.

When I moved to Roatan to pursue diving, I think a lot of people thought this was some mid-life crisis. I turned a switch on my life. If I’m honest, I’ve been working pretty intense jobs since I graduated from law school/grad school. In fact, there have only been a few months amidst the last almost twenty years when I wasn’t working more than one job. A few years, I worked three jobs. But, the thing I think many people miss is that I really have loved most of the work. Yes – it’s been times where it has been too much. But, I’ve really enjoyed most of it. I felt like the work I was doing was important; I felt connected to people and to a mission; I felt energized by partnering with people who’ve been dealt a rough hand. Yes, I had neglected some parts of my life; but, overall life was good. Not to say it was a cakewalk. But, I’d say, the good generally outweighed the bad.

In the last two or so years, something has shifted. It might be partially because the pandemic forced me to work and live in a silo. Despite the non-stop zoom meetings, I was still disconnected from people. I wasn’t energized by a connection to my clients or to my colleagues, because I hardly ever saw them. I remember at one point in the past year, my boyfriend had gone away and I was at home. I literally didn’t leave my home for three weeks. Food can be delivered, we had work out equipment at home. I’m an introvert. Who needs people?

Living in Medellin awoke areas of my life I had forgotten brought me joy. Joy is important. It’s joy that I want to focus on today.

I had a close friend come visit me a couple months ago. She made a passing comment about how what I’m doing isn’t real life: not everyone can do what I’m doing. It took me aback. It felt like she thought I was judging her for not moving thousands of miles away from her own life to find something; that I had found some sort of zen, and judged her for not finding hers. I’m not sure that is really what she was thinking, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think the truth is that we all have to find our own joy. One of the things I’ve realized being on this beautiful island is that your environment is not the only thing important in being joyful. There are people here who live at the beautiful island who are unhappy. There are people who are simply on vacation who are unhappy. If I’m being real, while I absolutely feel grateful for the months I’ve been here, I know that this could not be my permanent home because it is too cut off from diversity for me. I feel isolated, even loving so many other aspects of this place.

What then? Is there no place you can feel real joy? Of course there is! But, you have to look for it!

I have a client I am currently working with. She has had a lion’s share of trauma. In one of our first sessions, I asked her what brought her joy. I think she thought I was a little bizarre. She was in therapy to talk about her trauma, after all. But in the past year of working together, I think she is starting to get my logic. Life is hard. Life can be really fricking hard! Personally, I think we have to find balance in it by finding the good. That might mean we find the strength in our overcoming trauma. But, it also might mean that despite the terrible things we’ve had to endure, we can still find connectivity; we can still find love; we can still find laughter.

I’m saying this, but it isn’t strictly my idea. I remember when I was about 22 years old, I met this incredible woman. She was a powerful black woman. Her daughter had been killed by a white man. He was convicted of a hate crime. This woman astounded me. Despite what she had gone through, she was so joyful and loving. I asked her about it. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of my own anger because of things I experienced. I was baffled at how happy she seemed. She told me, “you don’t fight hatred and anger with anger. You fight it with love.” That was too much for my young brain to take in. I was awed by it but could not comprehend it. It stuck with me.

I was talking with another client yesterday. He is one of the kindest, most patient people I have met in my life. He has experienced immense trauma. I asked him what the happiest day of his life was. He said coming back from war alive. Take that in. This man is in his mid-seventies, and yet the happiest he ever felt was not dying when he was a young adult. But yesterday, he happened to mention that he was into cars before he went away to war. We started talking about different types of cars. I could hear the joy and the excitement come back. I could hear the shedding of some of the pain from the day.

That is the point.

Life is hard. I can’t change that. I can’t change it for my clients; I can’t change it for myself. My feelings on this experience of quitting my job and moving to Honduras is not me giving up my life. I happen to really love my life. That isn’t to say it has been easy. It hasn’t. I’ve been through my own challenges. What makes it worth it? It’s seeing beauty. It’s connectivity. It’s dancing. It’s seeing life and happiness despite pain. I don’t want you to give up your life to go live on a desert island. I want you to find beauty in your life. I want you to experience happiness despite your trauma. I want you to take in life’s lessons: hard and easy and realize that you’ve grown through them.

Life is balance. There is a movie called “The Crow” which came out when I was a teenager. A quote from it that I’ll never forget is, “It can’t rain all the time.” What keeps coming back to me over the years is that life has multiple sides to it. If it never rained, we’d never appreciate the sun. If it never rained, we couldn’t have plants, or animals, or essentially life. When something hard happens, it’s easy to think that it might overcome us. I met a father the other day who lost his son five years ago. I cannot imagine the pain. But, there is still life! There is still joy. There is opportunity and there is love. In fact, sometimes (if we let it) loss can open us to new experiences and joy that we may not contemplated before. So, there in beauty in the pain.

Life is beautiful.

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