Finding and Cultivating Joy

For years I had a skewed idea of the path I should follow in life. I thought I had to accomplish big things and make monumental changes to the world around me in order for my life to matter.

This was a recipe for massive discontent and frustration. As my health situation changed and my ability to make the kind of contributions I wanted waned, I grew increasingly anxious and depressed. When my self worth is tied into my perceived output and career goals, I feel like a failure when I “underachieve.”

Why so much pressure?

A month ago I had to give notice at work. I’d been with my company almost three years and it was by far my favorite job as a veterinary technician. The practice was big and bustling, and I learned so much. Last year I could no longer do full time and went to ¾ time. This year, when I returned to work after the first foot break, I went on shortened days. Perhaps I should have resigned then.

Then came the second foot break. Yes, this time it was an incomplete stress fracture, 4th metatarsal. Same foot as before, different bone. I’d visited a bone density endocrinologist: the chronic kidney disease and steroid use contributed to osteopenia, and we needed a new game plan.

It slapped me in the face. Keeping up at this pace in this job was no longer feasible. I took a deep breath and stepped away.

Time to adjust once again to my “new normal.”

Thanks to therapy, medication for anxiety, and a wonderful support system, I’m trying my best to not define myself by my accomplishments on paper.

Finding “Joy” on our Disney Cruise in August.

I’m also not waiting until I “feel better” or receive a transplant to live my life. It took a horrible diagnosis to make me realize how truly blessed I am here, now, as is. I mean, I’d heard the Ram Dass statement “Be here now” but it never clicked. I had to feel half dead to make the connection. I now choose to find moments of joy in every day: waking up and seeing my soulmate every morning, that glorious cup of coffee in my pjs, playing with color and texture in art class, playing with sound in choir.

For years I strove for the next thing, the next goal, particularly when it came to my career. Great that I passed the class, now onto passing the entire program. Okay, passed the program, now onto boards. Passed boards, now onto the next certification. I didn’t take time to enjoy each phase. It was never enough.

The joy from accomplishments is fleeting and shallow. The joy from a game of dominoes with my family or toying around with a harmony line in choir fills me more than the latest performance evaluation at work.

Be kind to yourself. You are more than your CV. You are worthy of a good life wherever and however you are.

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