I think I died. So I’m learning how to live again.

I don’t know what prompted me to sing this morning…maybe it’s having been unable to listen to music for over a month (if you know me, you’ll know music is part of my lifeblood). I don’t know why I felt the need, but I woke up my girly with song this morning, like I used to do. Ever since she was but a bean in my belly, I’ve made up songs and sung them to her. They’re nothing clever, usually just commentary on what we’re doing that day or conversing with her normally, but with a melody. She’s always loved it.

So what happened?

The truth is, there hasn’t been a lot of music in my life for a while The last few years have been a struggle. Ha, struggle isn’t even a strong enough word. Illness, injury, heartache…you name it. The illness came in the form of my never quite under control autoimmune disease – the repeated tests, the constant adjustment of medication, the side effects. The injury, well the cartilage in my left knee (I found out after 18 months of tests, appointments and scans) has massive irreparable cracks in it, which means no more running (not a problem), the need to avoid stairs, and toning down my martial arts practice (WHAT?). And not having full and unrestricted use of my body has been frustrating to the extreme. The heartache…well, the biggest loss was learning I couldn’t have any more children after I suffered my 4th miscarriage after nearly 3 years of trying. And now…well now, I’m 5 weeks into post-concussion syndrome resulting from my car accident last month, and I’m struggling every day. My brain doesn’t cooperate the way it used to. (I don’t tell you all this to earn your sympathy — we all have stories like this. I’m setting the context, that’s all.)

It all seemed to start going downhill with the death of my mother (my best and truest friend), and it’s all changed me. Maybe in some ways for the better — though I’m not always sure how. I mean, I’ve definitely learned that I’m resilient and a warrior, that much I know. But how much can one person take WITHOUT it changing them? Like, REALLY changing them fundamentally at their core?

So although I still listened to music on occasion, I stopped singing a long time ago.

Then this morning, I had a browse through Facebook (as you do), and my memories today showed me an old video I’d posted of girly when she was just a few weeks old. In it, I was singing to her, and I could see her little face light up when I did and how she desperately tried to respond by singing herself. (That little monkey was trying to talk at 6 weeks old, and you could always see how frustrated she was that she couldn’t. Haha…if only you knew her now…) She made all these beautiful little noises in all the right places. And something inside me stirred.

So instead of pulling off her covers and waking her as I normally did, with talk of how late it was getting and to “hustle her bustle”, I sang. It just felt right. And for the first time in a LONG time, she smiled as she woke up. SHE SMILED. There was no “I’m still tired”; there was no shaking of the head as if to say “No, not yet”, no “Just a few more minutes”. No, she smiled, opened her eyes, and said, “Hi, mama.” and gave me the biggest cuddle ever. It’s like she suddenly recognized me, like she suddenly saw ME…and and it broke my heart. It made me realize how much I HAD changed.

I thought I’d lost it long ago, but I realized I hadn’t

It’s easy to allow struggle and hardship to change you. There’s no doubt that it does. It’s GOING to…how can it not? And with every hardship you feel a little piece of you die, and get buried over with emotion, and pain, and anger, and resentment. At least that’s what it feels like. It feels like that piece of who you were is no more. It’s gone forever, replaced by something else, for better or for worse. It’s how we become cynical, and unhappy, and untrusting and angry. Because those good parts of us die every time they’re beaten beyond recognition.

But I realized today, those pieces of you never really die, no matter how much they’re suffocated by life. They’re still there. Their hearts are still beating… they’re still breathing, ever so slowly. And all it takes to breathe new life into them is joy.

Yes, joy.

You know those things that we loved at ANY age of life…the things that just brought us pure contentment and happiness? It doesn’t matter what it was… it was that thing or things that when we did them or read them or played them or thought them or talked about them or viewed them, they just made us feel happy. They made us feel free. They connected us to that immortal piece of ourselves that remains from our first breath to our last. It reminds us of all the good in our lives, of all the happiness, of all the golden moments. For me, it’s always been song. It’s always been MUSIC.

And if you think hard enough I’m sure each of you can remember something that you just loved…it didn’t require effort, or perfection, or approval. It just was, and you loved it. And for some reason you stopped doing it. My guess is…you got “lifed”.

Find your joy…it’s the only way

I’m a firm believer that we should NOT be trying to find our “passion” in life (as so many experts tell you that you should). I realize that’s a pretty black and white statement, but in this instance, it fits. Because there’s waaaaaay too much pressure in that pursuit. Finding your “passion” brings way too much stress in my experience. And frankly, passions change.

We should, in fact, be trying to find (or reconnect) with our joy. Because the reality is life will always throw something at you to beat you down. And we lose joy because we let it beat us… we let it allow us to forget it. We feel that it is frivolous because the more serious life gets, the more serious we need to become. We’ve placed all these restrictions on what we are supposed to feel and think and do because of some arbitrary number (like age) or status (like professions). We lose that sense of hope and happiness and contentment. It’s probably why so many of us are constantly seeking things to fill that vague void. We are constantly looking for something to rekindle that flame inside us, to help us feel alive.

I’m telling you…find your JOY. Find the thing that made you happy. That thing you loved to do and did all the time. When we were growing up, we were always singing. My own girly now is always singing…all the time, and I love it! I had just forgotten that I used to do it, too. We grew up with music in our house 24/7. And it was ALWAYS joyful. Even in my mother’s last days, I sat with her and we YouTubed as many of her old favourites as she could remember. And the sheer JOY in that woman’s face, I will never forget.

So take some time this week to remind yourself of what you enjoy. It shouldn’t come with conditions. It shouldn’t be complicated. Maybe it’s sitting in a quiet room with a cuppa, reading a book. Maybe it’s taking a quiet walk in the cold. Maybe it’s playing video games. Maybe it’s colouring. Who knows? Well, YOU know.

Because happiness, my dear friends, is so freaking subjective. Nothing MAKES us happy…no one can TELL us how to be happy. We simply decide we are. End of story. And it’s easy to be happy, when you remember how to feel joy. Because joy is like a protective amulet — no amount of “life” can kill it.

With love, and joy…

Sarah xo

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