One of the larger office supply stores advertises that buying from them is like having an “easy button.”  With a simple push it solves all your office supply problems.  Many people spend their lives looking for an “easy button” for life.  They are convinced that if only they find the right person, follow the right steps, join the right organization, read the right book, view the right film, vote for the right politician or attend the right seminar, then that will fix everything that is wrong in their lives.

There are some seasons where it is difficult to find any satisfaction in life.  My father recently suffered a minor stroke and has been in and out of the hospital since then. On top of that,  he was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, after a previous diagnosis of Parkinson’s.  My youngest daughter continues suffering from bipolar disorder and is only partially stabilized.  On a brighter note, my oldest daughter is less than a year from graduating with a degree in psychology, while my middle daughter has just been accepted to a university where she intends on majoring in microbiology.

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            Each of us faces a variety of stresses and problems, along with triumphs and ease. There are times when we believe we can take on the world and we have confidence that we will overcome.  Perhaps we felt such enthusiasm when we began a new job, or after we first got married. Or perhaps it was when we graduated from high school or college, or gave birth to our first child: the road ahead seemed bright and full of hope.

            But today, perhaps you’re faced with financial problems in the midst of an economy in shambles.  The job prospects for the newly graduated, the newly unemployed, and the long term jobless are bleak.  Discouragement is hard to shake.  In fact, sometimes it seems the only reasonable response.

            So how can you lift yourself out of the doldrums?  How can you reignite the spark of hope, find a way to face today without the ten pound weight in your gut?

            What would be wonderful is if there were some formula one could follow, perhaps a simple ten step plan.  Even a complicated ten step plan.  Anything to make the bad feelings go away, to reignite a sense of life being worthwhile once again would be wonderful.  If only, we think, we could find some joy in our existence once more: to discover a sense of satisfaction.

            As an author, I’ve experienced this thing called writer’s block, a psychological disorder that makes it hard to focus on the blank page and fill it up with words.  Writer’s block comes from a lack of focus, an inability to concentrate, a failure to release the mind to do what it both needs to do and knows how to do—thanks to an overwhelming sense of self-doubt and lack of confidence.  One breaks the block simply by pounding at it, putting words down  slowly, grudgingly, even when they don’t flow.  Doing the job even though it isn’t fun anymore.  There’s no easy way past it.

            Finding joy does not come from a set formula and it does not come from pretending that the troubles and barriers currently burdening our souls are not there.  Instead, joy returns only gradually, as we continue walking down the road.  Like the grief we experience upon the death of a loved one, the grief of overwhelming problems will only fade with time.  It sounds harsh, but the way out is the way we accomplish any journey in life: by simply taking one more step.  We choose to keep walking, rather than to lie down and die. 

            We will reawaken our joy as we keep on getting up every day.  With each task that we do, however small, we make progress toward a return to normalcy.  Joy slowly seeps back with each dish that we wash, with each lawn mown, with each repair made.  Joy sneaks back when we discover that we have survived another day, when we finally sleep through the night, when we take a walk, and when we talk to a loved one.

            Perhaps for some few people, joy will return in a blaze of glory, with a sudden reversal of fortune like something out of a Hollywood musical.  But for most of us, joy comes back slowly, day by day, month by month, so gradually that we barely notice that we’re alright once again.  It would be nice if there were an “easy button,” but television commercials aren’t reality.  All we can do is survive, push on, and let time heal our wounds.  Joy always returns, just like the sun always rises, and winter turns to spring.

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