By Kandice Henning

We live in a dualistic world of opposites, hot and cold, dark and light, good and bad, etc. But is bad really all bad? Or it is interlaced with silver linings, with learnings and growth? Life is not meant to be an endless string of pleasantries. I think of the Jim Carey movie The Truman Show. The main character, Truman Burbank, was stuck in a perfectly planned out world. Every day was the same, nothing ever out of order. If everything were perfect, life would be pretty boring. Instead life brings us sun and rain, cold and heat, pleasure and disappointments. Without these opposites it would be hard to truly appreciate the good. As well, hardships inherently help us to grow, even the worst of them. It is in these times that we tend to learn the most about ourselves and life. I believe that we learned a lot, both as a society and as individuals, during the COVID-19 quarantine. My darkest moments in my life were when I got down on my knees and found what was really true for me. Hint, it was not the material things in life.

We have been given the gift of free will. Let me say it again. Free will is a gift. We have been gifted with the ability to choose our thoughts and choose our actions. This is really powerful! We can therefore choose thoughts and actions that can bring us to Joy. Poet and spiritual adviser Mark Nepo says “Yet, to be accepting of the life that comes our way does not mean denying its difficulties and disappointments. Rather, it means that joy can be found even in hardship, not by demanding that we be treated as special at every turn, but through accepting the demand of the sacred that we treat everything that comes our way as special.”

Mark Nepo believes, as do I that the key to knowing joy is to be easily pleased. I think we could all use more joy in our lives so let’s look at this. Free will dictates that we have a choice, that we can be easily pleased, pleasantly surprised just as children are or we can always be unhappy, wanting more. We give the outside world too much power over our happiness. Many think they are not happy or do not have joy because the outside world is not providing it to them. The sun is out and it is warm and we are happy. There is a quarantine due to COVID-19 and we are stuck inside on a cold wet day and we are unhappy. The good news is that this is not how it really works. Joy and happiness come from inside of us and we can access them whenever we want. Please sit with that for just a moment. You get to choose, each and every time, how you react to something. If it is cold outside and you are stuck in, build a fire and get cozy or play a game with your family. You get to choose how you react.

So instead of looking for happiness and joy in the external world, let’s embrace the happiness and joy that is inside of us. Let’s make the best choices for ourselves, for our world and those around us. Let’s look for the silver lining in the hardships and difficulties. Let’s learn from the hard times and enjoy the good times. Let’s switch to treating everything that comes our way as special. Life is a gift after all, and tomorrow is not guaranteed.