Choosing Joy Over Despair

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”

~Robin Wall Kimmerer

I sometimes find it challenging to choose joy over despair these days. But also know the choice I make from moment to moment Impacts how I can be, or not be, fully present and available to friends, family, community and even myself.

When one does not have their “head in the sand” – a common protective mechanism of avoidance to the pain and suffering that is going on all around the world, in those close to us, and sometimes within ourselves – then we are bound to be faced with others despair, anxiety, pain and loss.

Where nothing is certain, being a human is messy, and everything is wildly changing. Where the mainstream media endlessly churns out ungrounded assumptions and endless rhetoric, stirring the pot of despair. Where we hear there is an empty chair at the Thanksgiving dinner table, a loved one having lost their life to a virus that does not discriminate. It is sometimes too easy to get caught up in this wounded world.

“How demoralizing and depressing it is to read or watch or listen to the news, if we just step back and think about the world around us, the people we know, there’s a disconnect between that utterly depraved picture of us that’s emerging, and how life actually really works, kind of day to day, hour to hour. The fact is, day to day, we have lots of positive interactions with a whole range of people, now, even in these socially distanced times. Let us not forget this…” ~Krista Tippett

Yet, within the wounds, rather like the tree in the image above, there is new growth and opportunities to re-frame our perspective and turn our attention to moments of joy and small pleasures. New growth that finds its compost from what has died or changed, and leaves us with clarity, a new found direction and hope. A perspective coming from interconnection – not separation.

“We’ve been organizing around parts even as we’re learning to see that in every sphere of life we inhabit ecosystems. …..Humans evolved as beings whose needs to touch and be touched, to converse, debate, and laugh together, to smile and flirt with one another, and to interact in groups, are central to healthy lives” ~ Agustin Fuentes, Biological and Evolutionary Anthropologist

Our senses tune us into what we see, smell, hear, and feel. The ecosystem of our bodies and what is around us. The imprinted “social beingness” that our DNA is coded with.

An entirely new landscape can reveal itself when we are able to re-frame responsibilities as privileges, and release a sense of obligation, shifting to opportunity where cooperation and collaboration are central. Where love is the leader. Where everyone and all life is valued.

Many years ago now I traveled with a small group down to the Northern part of Baja California. Our leader had been there before to this remote area with natural hot springs where the indigenous Paipai of Mexico lived. After an overnight stay along the way, sleeping in tents on a very cold ground, we reached our destination trusting our guide could find his way again as we traversed cross country over rough terrain.

When we arrived we were greeted by a woman in her fifties – Maria – and her father – Ramon – in his late 80’s. Only two indigenous Paipai left in this rough and isolated area of Baja. Birth home to them where they had lived their entire lives. We were to learn that many others in this community had left for more populated areas to seek work and an easier way of life.

It was apparent immediately that the older man could not navigate well except with the help of his daughter. We were warmly welcomed onto their land and were invited to camp out for a couple of days next to the hot springs and share meals with them.

Not having much Spanish we relied on our guide who was fluent. Out of the conversation over a couple of days we found out that the woman’s father was completely dependent on his daughter for his well being as he had lost his sight. This is a man who had loved to roam his land on horseback and independently carry on this life.

That was no longer possible and it saddened him greatly. His daughter’s daily life was taken up with caring for him, the household and the land they lived upon. Despair along with a certain level of acceptance prevailed.

On our last day there we shared a simple meal together and I felt it important before we left to thank this man who could not see me, by coming closer and touching his hand and saying gracias for their hospitality. This is when possibility appeared!

As I gazed at the man’s face and looked into his eyes I saw that he had what I thought were severe cataracts completely clouding his vision. I could hardly contain myself as at that time I worked at a well known medical clinic/research foundation in Southern California and had access to the Department of Ophthalmology and the head of the Division.

The outcome of this story is a testament to choosing joy over despair. Not overlooking or accepting that this indigenous man and his daughter had to simply live with his disability, but taking action on the possibility of restoring his vision.

It took a collaborative and cooperative approach to bring this man and his daughter up to be evaluated. And a true test of trust on their part to travel out of their small home base in Baja where they had lived all of their lives and had never been away from.

Yes, he did have cataracts in both eyes, but one had been injured many years prior from a tree branch hitting his eye when he was on horseback. The vision in this eye could not be restored, but the other eye was given back perfect sight through cataract surgery. This of course meant that his independence could be restored and his daughter’s obligations lightened.

Yet it did not end there, for my friend and colleague, the ophthalmologist, took action to develop an on going vision clinic down in nearby Tijuana, traveling down with other staff once a month to help those with vision problems.

Shifting despair to joy for many, including those of us who collaboratively and collectively were a part of these actions. Given the privilege of embodying the best of human kindness, hope and compassion.

Choosing joy over despair. Lest we forget, It happens millions of times a day….


6 Comments on “Choosing Joy Over Despair

  1. What a lovely and heart-warming read, thank you for sharing this story and message! I’ll share it on my blog page for all of my readers to see.

    I hope you have a great week 🙂

    • Sincerely appreciate your sharing this on Sweeney’s Blog James! Stay well and embrace joy and awe whenever and wherever you find it….or it finds YOU! Gaye

  2. Pingback: Choosing Joy Over Despair — WILDLY FREE ELDER – Sweeney's Blogs

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