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Looking Beyond Illness: Adding Up the Smallest Joys

A few smiles a day can make a big difference in how we perceive pain — and our lives. This occurred to me today as I bought Spike Lee water. (That’s sparkling water to anyone outside my household.)

I was taken aback when my then six-year-old niece asked me for her Spike Lee shirt a few years ago. My sister translated: spikelee means sparkly. I was so amused that the phrase became a fixture of my vocabulary. “Give me sharp knife,” said in a serious and clipped tone, is another favorite from when my nephew was three.

I drink sparkling water and use sharp knives every day. And I remember these funny stories. I also think of the kids I love so much and who make me laugh, intentionally or not. These inside jokes aren’t that funny to anyone else, but they mean the world to me.

Remembrances are only part of the picture. Consciously thinking about the happiness in every day may be the best way to revive joy. I know a woman with bipolar disorder and migraine who writes down the good parts of each day before she goes to bed at night. This reminds her regularly how rich her life is despite illness.

As the migraine that’s been coming and going since Thursday threatened to consume me, I struggled to see the positive aspects of today. Let’s see, I was only 10 minutes late to my appointment this morning, biofeedback kept my migraine at bay long enough to go grocery shopping, I made myself laugh by deciding our house really needs a periscope.

So many cliches say to enjoy the little things in life. A good sentiment — one that can seem impossible to put into practice. The items on my list of what’s good today border on minutia. Had I not seriously thought about and recorded them, any happiness would be lost in a day dominated by pain and exhaustion.

Now, as the pain grows more assertive, I’m grateful knowing I did something more than have a migraine today. I was productive and laughed aloud. These nearly forgotten pieces of each day come together, creating a quilt to wrap around myself when I most need reassurance that my life is beautiful and fulfilling.

5 Responses to Looking Beyond Illness: Adding Up the Smallest Joys

  1. Christine Webb says:

    Ah, Kerrie, what you’ve written is beautiful. I am moved to tears. I wish for your, and all our, happiness

  2. Charlotte says:

    What a nice idea, writing down the good things that happen every day. I have chronic depression, along with a vague sense that I “never get enough done” during the day. So, every day I write down all the things I did. Funny, there seem to be an awful lot of them for someone who is as “lazy” as I believe myself to be.

  3. jeselle says:

    Dear Kerrie,
    Thank you for this wonderful insight. It is critical. I had a migraine at work and had to skip my lunchtime nap b/c I had to monitor the installation of the new copy machine. That meant interacting with the Sales Rep who I’ve known for a couple of years. And I realized that I enjoyed our interaction b/c he’s a neat person. I made a mental note that even though I had a migraine, I was happy I could work through it and maintain the relationship I had built with this person. That was important and special to me. The other thing I am valuing at the moment is my husband’s family has been especially supportive during my lastest bad spell and I’ve been really impressed. Thanks for your blog. It’s been a lifesaver and inspiration to me. j

  4. Lauren says:

    Hi there, I am so incredibly pleased to have found your site (via the NYT article). So happy I just blogged about it!

    But seriously– and this sounds so cheesy– it means so much to me that this blogs exist. I’ve suffered from migraines my whole life, and they’ve gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, but no doctor has ever been able to diagnose why. I just take the medicine and stay in bed til it passes. But this keeps me from doing my work, enjoying my life, and in many cases forces me to cancel social plans. It feels so much of the time that the only people who understand are other migraine sufferers– and until I read that NYT article, that was limited to my mom and a cousin.
    So, thank you, and I look forward to reading more.

  5. Kris says:

    Thank you for this. On the hard days it’s so difficult to remember the little things. I’ve made a habit of trying to see the people who make me laugh often–even if it’s in my living room, and to treat myself on good days to something I couldn’t normally do like call up friends I haven’t spoken to, or reading outside in the nice weather. I need to focus on those things so much more often-I think I might set a reminder in my phone for “one good thing today”.

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