My middle name is Joy.
I hated the name growing up. My father used to call me “Stacy Joy” when I was a kid and I wanted to kill him. It was just so embarrassing. Then again, what isn’t embarrassing when you are an adolescent girl?
Now, as an adult, I love the name.
A few weeks ago, I was on a website looking at silver engraved bracelets. I was buying one for each of my daughters that read, “I love you to the moon and back”, because I do love them to the moon and back, and even more. As I continued to look at the site, I saw one bracelet that was engraved “today I choose joy”. I immediately put one into my cart for myself and paid for it along with the two I was buying for my daughters. It just struck me as meaningful.
I put the bracelet on my wrist the other day. When I looked at it, I thought about my recent days, weeks, and months; could it be possible to look at four words to change my mood? Could I just “choose joy”?
My answer is sometimes.
There are moments, even days, that are just dark. I might be feeling exceptionally sad or angry, and if someone told me to “choose joy”, I would probably punch them in the face.
Other times, I think this may be possible.
There will always be triggers to feeling down.
It may be a worry about one of my girls, an argument with someone, a memory of Howie, or even just daily stress. I can very easily wallow in my misery, which I have done, or I can choose to recognize these bad feelings but then make the effort to move past them and into a positive direction.
My best thinking tends to be when I am either in the shower or driving alone in my car. This is probably because these are the only times when I am ever by myself – truly. In the past, this was when I would ruminate. Years ago, my therapist taught me what ruminating meant and that I was doing it. I was slowly going over and over in my mind all the reasons that I was justified to be unhappy or in a bad mood. This was the absolute worst thing for me – I would replay all of the bad things that happened to me and convince myself that I had a right to be angry or sad.
I am not saying that I wasn’t justified – sometimes I was – but having the right to feel a certain way did not mean that I must feel this way. There are now moments where I have learned to move past these feelings and actually choose joy.
Songs are triggers for me, as they are for most people.
They can make me feel happy or make me feel sad. We sometimes play the saddest, deepest songs to allow ourselves to wallow in our sadness. It’s ok – we all do it. I do.
There is a particular song that, when I heard in my car for the first time after Howie died, caused me to cry so hard that I needed to pull over on the side of the road until I could calm myself. It wasn’t even a song that brought up a particular memory of him, the words just spoke to me and were so powerful that they brought me to hysterics.
What did I do over the next few weeks? I played the song numerous times. It made me feel justified to be sad.
After a traumatic loss, or other situations in our lives, I believe it is okay to feel this way. For me, it was when I couldn’t get out of this pattern that I realized it was unhealthy. Ruminating during sad songs or time alone was beginning to destroy me.
Once my therapist brought this to my attention, as well as working on other things with me, I was thankfully able to break this pattern. My ruminating has pretty much vanished and instead, during time alone, I have found something else to fill my thoughts. My alone time is now when I come up with my best ideas for writing.
I now try to stay away from the sad songs on the radio. This morning, that evil song, which had caused my hysterics a few years back, was playing in my car. I listened to about 10 words, but this time, instead of throwing myself into a crying fit, I switched to XM Studio 54 where an old dance favorite was playing. I soon found myself smiling and singing at the top of my lungs as I drove to work.
I was wearing my bracelet. I chose joy.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.