The Journey to Joy

pexels-photo-255441.jpegThe Journey to Joy

Isn’t it so cliché that we say, “the journey is the reward”, yet so many of us get so caught up in the reward that we forget the journey.  We sometimes even regret the journey without truly giving it its rightful credit.  That is where my story begins, the day I realized that my journey through life, all the beautiful, messy, guilt-ridden, intense, passionate, free-falling, wondrous and down-right offensive moments, had led me straight here, to this computer, this website, and the start of something that brings joy to my soul.

Life always smacks you in the face with those “ah ha” moments (usually after a life changing event) where you say, “now I get it” or “I ended up exactly where I am supposed to be” or “thank god what I was praying for a year ago, didn’t happen”.

For me, that moment was the day I ended up in the Emergency Room with my husband.

Now, I am sure you are wondering, what happened, what went wrong, how sad, or even, but “I bet they learned from it”.  And the magic of it is, all of these are right.

It was the Spring of 2011 and I was just finishing up my first year working at a Charter School in Philadelphia, PA.  I was the Assistant Athletic Director for Girls, teaching English, and running my own lucrative field hockey training business “on the side”.  Life was good!  My innate need to engage people, young and old, and to motivate them was satiated every day from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed.  I was married, had no children, was living in the beautiful downtown neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, and I was happy.

Happiness is a relative term.  I was living the best life I knew how to live, but wasn’t truly spending any time in the moment, reflecting, and listening to my heart.  At the time, my husband was working at Temple University as a Division 1 Assistant Football coach, and I was considered a “football widow”.  Yes, it was as grueling as it sounded.  My husband worked every day of the year, every hour of the day, every moment of the hour, and for those precious glimpses when he was home (between midnight and 4 AM, after 9 PM on Fridays, and Saturday evenings, sometimes), he still had work on his mind and on his shoulders.  Our livelihood depended on a team of young men, between the ages of 18-22, doing their job and winning games.  It was a constant rollercoaster of emotions, will we win, can we make a bowl game, will the losses be enough for the entire staff to be fired, are we moving again?  These questions were real and threatened our daily life and certainly fell heavy on the heart of my husband who was driven to succeed and make our life together, work.

I remember the dread I felt every time I was invited to a celebration, a wedding, or even had a field hockey game that I was coaching, because I always knew I was on my own, I was never a plus one.  Sometimes, I felt like the loneliest married woman on the planet, but most days, I just pulled my boot straps up, and created an independent life for myself that kept me busy, allowed me to find people and outlets to enjoy, and gave me hope that my husband and I would always thrive, together and apart.  It was the unconditional, passionate, once in a lifetime love that we shared, and still share today for each other and for our faith that allowed us to persevere – through everything – even a health scare.

On Memorial Day weekend, May 2011, my husband was given the gift of time.  He was not needed on the recruiting road and was given time away from the football facility.  With that, we left Philadelphia and drove south on 81 to Leesburg, VA.  Matt’s family lived there and it was Matt’s birthday, so we decided to spend the time with them.  While sitting at the dinner table, my husband, who is never sick, began coughing and clearing his throat.  He was not choking on food, but when we looked, realized that he was choking on his thyroid that had exploded in his throat and was the size of a softball.  Thankfully, my sister-in-law, a nurse at the time, stood up, rushed he and me to her car and brought us straight to the Emergency Room.

You can imagine my thoughts as doctors worked to ensure that his airway was clear and to find out what was happening beneath his young and healthy skin.  As I sat there, worst case scenarios were imminent and confirmed with the Emergency Room doctor informed us, after a CT scan, that my husband was going to be admitted to the hospital and the tumor was going to be tested for cancer.

CANCER, what?  That six letter word that stole both of my grandmothers and a friend from high school, WAY TO SOON, was now associated with my husband.  I don’t remember much after the doctor said the word, but I do know that it clarified many things for me.  The “ah ha” moment hit me like a ton of bricks.  We haven’t lived life yet, together, we don’t have children, we barely see each other, what are we doing, how is this happening?  Life in the present moment had never been so vivid for me.  The annoyances of every day life, slipped away, and were filled by desperate prayers, regrets of what we hadn’t done, and how much more there was to live.

That was the moment where the journey became more important than any reward.

After a week of sleepless nights, anxiety attacks while watching the oxygen levels of my husband, test after test, and major neck surgery, we were discharged from the hospital and sent home with a clean bill of health.  My husband had a node on his thyroid that filled with blood and pushed directly on his wind pipe.  Once the benign node and his left thyroid were removed (it was actually the size of a softball), he was fine.

I always heard that the patient gained patience while loved ones suffered the tumult – and I was feeling the tumult.  My post traumatic reaction to the event left me staring at my husband breathing in the middle of the night and obsessively asking him questions about how he felt to insure that his other thyroid was actually functioning.  I was a broken record and couldn’t stop the song.  It exhausted me and him, alike.

In those moments, the silence and the darkness of the night, allowed me time to think and to readjust my view on where I was going and how happy I truly was.  In the meantime, my husband was moved by God to step out of the coaching world and into a new profession.  It was as if the hand of the Lord was resting gently on our life, guiding us to a place where we would be free.  Free to be a couple again, free to make plans for the future, free to move from Philadelphia, PA to Northern Virginia, free to find hobbies that made each of us happy and fulfilled.

We left Philadelphia, with a revered respect for the city that had become our temporary home, but with a new sense of purpose to write the next chapter of our married life, together.

Moving always produces the same outcome for me – and I think it is a key reason why I love to organize – it allows me to evaluate possessions, to eliminate baggage, and to keep those things close that matter most.  The move to Virginia was no exception.  A new town, a new house, a new start, and viola I had all the answers…

NOT EVEN CLOSE.  I hope you didn’t think I was serious.  It was then that I was forced to begin the process of figuring out exactly what it was that made me happy.  As I mentioned, happiness is a relative term.  The true question was what brought me joy?  I couldn’t answer it.

So, here we are, ready to begin 2018, residents of Northern Virginia for almost 7 years, with a 3.5 year old and another one on the way (coming April 2018), and I can finally without hesitation say that I have found the recipe for joy.  It is handmade, carefully woven, and all mine.  And, as you sit and wonder what kind of craziness I am speaking, let me share, ever so softly and in the words of Trish Blackwell, “it is the season of simplicity and balance”.

A balanced life – brings me joy.

Motherhood – brings me joy.

Family and those close – bring me joy.

God’s Love – brings me joy.

A business helping others find joy through organizing, simplifying, and removing the baggage is my calling, my passion, my mission and IT brings me JOY.

My journey to joy is ever-changing, ever-growing, and never-ending.  Because it is within the journey that we are able to live.