To pursue joy is not to whitewash the challenges and sadness of life.
Sadness, fear, and challenges are very real experiences. These experiences distract us from the joys of life and it is critical to the happiness of everyone to complete them and move through them appropriately and NOT GET STUCK. We see supporting examples of this in many cultures around rituals and practices of burial and grieving. There is an appropriate (although not precisely fixed) time for grief and an appropriate time to move beyond grief.
There is a distinction between validating an experience of fear and validating that which is feared. Here is an example from my past: When caring for Carl through the early stages of Alzheimer’s, I have a valid experience of fear of handling his care when in the future he would become incontinent.
I know it will happen. I’m grossed out by the thought of it. Will he let me help him? What if he is combative? However, I do not need to validate incontinence as being fearsome. Doing so would only impede my ability to move through my experience of fear and be prepared to handle assisting Carl with toileting and incontinence. In truth, incontinence is not fearsome, it is just human hygiene. It is also true that it is valid and common for people to have a fear of assisting the incontinent when they have no experience in doing so.
So, at that time of fear I look for what is joyful: Carl is my friend. He trusts me to care for him. Making sure he is clean and comfortable is one way to express my love for him and give him a good life. When I help him use the toilet at a concert hall, we can comfortably get back to our seats and enjoy the music. When I help him in the family restroom at the stadium, we can get back to enjoying the ball game in comfort.
In this way, looking for joy helps us acknowledge, complete, and move through times of fear, sadness, and loss. It is OK to experience these feelings. It is not OK to be stuck there, bear with it, and just get through a miserable day to recreate the misery tomorrow. That is a life of suffering and I insist we interrupt suffering with joy. The alternative is unimpeded and uninterrupted suffering. I’m not OK with that, are you?
I stand for people having joyful lives in any and every circumstance. Will you join me? What do you stand for?
Find your joy!
David Lazaroff is author of Live It Up! 10 Ways to Share Joy When Your Friend Has Alzheimer’s. David coaches family and friends of people with Alzheimer’s Disease in creating a fun and joyful life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
David is the founder of Holistic Community Living, a Colorado nonprofit founded to operate and teach others to operate neighborhood-based assisted living homes where people can complete their lives with those they love.