‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.’
My current situation
Right now my husband and I are still waiting to conceive again, after taking a little pause in the autumn for tests into whether that was any diagnosable cause for our previous recurrent miscarriages and unhealthy pregnancies.
Thankfully those tests all came back clear. But now we are back to a season of hoping and waiting and trying to conceive again …
And honestly, right now I am feeling pretty fed up.This is our third time round on this particular monthly emotional rollercoaster now, and 18 months into it, I am really tired.
Tired of constantly raising our hopes every four weeks, and then facing more disappointment…
Tired of trying to explain to our four year old why he hasn’t got the baby brother or sister like all of his friends.
Tired of watching other people conceive and give birth to full-term healthy babies in the time and space that has passed for us.
Tired of hearing people complain about not being able to conceive after 2 or 3 months of trying.
Tired of all my spare cupboard spaces being taken up by baby stuff which I don’t know whether to throw out or keep anymore.
Tired of not being able to make any long-term plans with our lives, because we can’t ever look more than 9 months ahead.
The truth is that I thought this difficult season of life would be well over for us by now, but it’s not.
Choosing to ‘practice joy’
When you’re feeling a bit crushed in spirit, it’s easy to over-focus on your disappointment, and to let all that’s good in the here and now sort of just pass you by. And heck, in some seasons there’s a lot of disappointment in life to contend with too.
But for the sake of our marriage, our own sanity, and most of all for the 4 year old that we do already have, I refuse to let this happen…
Besides what other option do we really have? Either we allow disappointment to make us bitter and swallow us up whole, or we proactively decide to choose joy.
So we are proactively choosing joy.
Intentionally choosing it.
Every single day.
And some days that decisions comes fairly easily, but sometimes it’s a real discipline; a choice I need to make over and over again.
Because lately there’s lots of days when I just really don’t really feel like doing it.
But my hope is that as I keep proactively choosing it, one day joy will actually become my natural reflex, even in the midst of heartbreak.
One day I want to be able to say, just like Paul the apostle:
11 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4 :11 -13
I am not fully there yet.
In fact, many days I am not even close.
But that’s okay, there’s grace for those days too. I am still a work in progress…
Joy is not just feeling happy
It’s also probably important to point out here, that joy is not the same as always feeling happy. Happiness is an emotional state or feeling that comes and goes, and no one can feel happy ALL the time.
But I think that joy is something deeper; a state of mind that is rooted in our identity in Christ, and therefore it can remain unmoved by our present circumstances.
Joy is about knowing who we are, and who’s we are, not about things always going our way. And it’s also about knowing where we’re headed too, because our present circumstances and struggle do not define us; they are not our ultimate home.
What does choosing joy look in practice?
Practicing joy can looks like lots of different things to different people; but really it’s about embracing the things that make your spirit most alive, even within the constraints of your circumstances.
So for us, choosing to practice joy in the here and now means looking to find good in our present circumstances and rejoicing in those things now, rather just than waiting for a ‘happy ending’ such as another baby to make us feel happy.
And this spring, that’s meant planning in some family treats to look forwards to, enjoying time together with the family and good friends that we do have, and it’s also been about grabbing hold of those ‘little moments’ of spontaneous joy with both hands as well.
Read on for a few more of my ideas….
8 ways to increase joy, even in the midst of disappointment:
- Identify some ‘joy triggers’
Start to get more intentional about seeking out ‘joy triggers’ in your life; whether that be that live stand-up comedy or funny films or books, or something else entirely, just choose the things that make you laugh.
- Find a ‘joy mentor’
For me, this is just about seeking out and spending more time with the individuals in my life who seem to know how to laugh a lot, who don’t take life too seriously, and who seem to practice joy much better than I do. Joy really is contagious!
- Choose silliness
I am also choosing silliness; why not buy the impractical red high heels, or the pointless inflatable pink flamingo, or the outrageously expensive colour changing gin, if they make life a bit more colourful and fun? Not everything in life always has to be so serious when you’re an adult.
- Do more of the things you love
I am also planning (and budgeting!) to pursue more of the things that I enjoy this year such as reading more books, travelling abroad, seeing live music, family days out, throwing parties, and taking girls weekends away with some of my best friends.
- Help out someone else
One of the best ways to get out of your own head and feel more positive about your life, can be choosing to focus on someone else’s needs instead. So help a neighbour, volunteer at your church, or raise some money for a good cause. It lifts my spirit every time.
- Practice gratitude daily
This one can feel quite intuitive at first, but noticing and speaking gratitude out loud for everything in life that you have been blessed with can really help change your perspective. So do it daily, or even several times a day if you need to, and use it as a tool to take your focus solely off that thing you still lack.
- Learn something new
Another good way to distract your mind from over-focusing and over-worrying about something you lack in the present is by choosing to do something more positive with that mental space and time instead.
So join a class, or take an online course to help you develop a positive new skill. Ask yourself, what is it that I can do ‘now’, that I won’t be able to do ‘then’? And then do it!
- Reframe the waiting time
Finally, one of the ways I am seeking to overcome frustration and find joy in my current waiting is by reframing the waiting time from being ‘dead time’ to ‘extra time’ in preparation for whatever is coming next.
You may not feel like reading a ‘How to parent manual’ right now but why not take a course of strengthening your marriage, for example? Trying to conceive can be a big strain on any relationship, and sleepless nights with a newborn baby, don’t make things much easier either. Or if you’re worried about how your finances might be stretched with a new baby in the home, why not learn about better budgeting and financial planning?
Tell me how you get on …
So that’s my list of thoughts and ideas on how to keep positive in the middle of trying to conceive.
If you try any of them, do let me know how you get on. What worked well, and what didn’t work? And I’d love to hear any other thoughts and ideas you might have too…