Choosing Joy Over Misery (Plus a Thoughtful Caveat)

melancholyI don’t understand it. I don’t exactly know how to do it. But I think I’m doing it.

Last week, I wrote a long post about choosing joy:

The biggest thing that I’m learning is that I need to love the work and love the process, or I’m going to be miserable. [I read something that] was basically asking if you wanted to be the person who loved the work or the person who loved the reward. Because if you’re the latter, you’re going to spend most of your life kinda miserable. But if you can be the former, you’ll be satisfied.

It’s mysterious to me. I have zero idea how this works.

But I do believe it’s working in my life.

Last week, I got a hard email, an email that would normally spiral me into panic and tears. And, instead, I paused and reminded myself to choose joy, told myself that my writing life is going to have highs and lows but that I’ll persist, and that panic and tears would not solve problems … and there was no panic and there were no tears. Instead, I thought rationally, sought out advice from a friend, waited for a couple hours, then wrote my reply.

It occurred to me: this is how a “normal” person reacts to bad news.

It felt like the first time in my life it happened for me.

I’m growing. Somehow. I don’t know any of the secrets to this yet. Do you? I’d love to hear.

P.S. I want to clarify: this post is not in contradiction to this one. I still believe that many people with brain disorders do not have the capability to simply choose to be happy. But I am finding in my own life that medication and OCD treatment and talk therapy and prayer are tools that are making that more and more possible for me. I am one of the lucky ones who has had so many opportunities and resources. They are opening up new doors for me that were locked even just a year ago. Would love to hear your thoughts.