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Happiness in a Cave, by Alicia Schonhardt

Updated: Feb 11

A little while back I joined a 31 day writing project. I chose 'Happiness', and I had to explore it. At the time it seemed like a great idea, but I quickly felt like it was becoming more of a joke.

No sooner had I started my "Happiness" project than Cee’s hip started hurting; a little in the morning, and by the afternoon it was hurting more. She skipped playing outside with her siblings Moe and Elle.  She decided to lay on the couch, and then she chose to lay in bed after going to the bathroom because her “bedroom was closer.”  My almost-eight-year-old was in bed.  At 4:00pm.  Voluntarily.

It did seem a little funny that the beginning of my writing about happiness for a whole month was christened with the thing that is most insurmountable in my quest for happiness– the pain of Cee in fighting her battle against SOJIA.

We’ve been here before.  The sudden onset of pain.  Standing and looking at the fork in the road.  The right branch leads to green pastures; the pain just a little hiccup in our regular life.

The other branch leads to a dark cave, the length of which is undetermined.  We’ve had caves last a year.  Months.  Weeks.  Days.  No way to know how long the darkness will last.

It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well.  But when the going gets tough?  The tough get crabby.  Or at least I do.  Based on history, and history repeats itself.

How do I choose happiness in a cave?

I can’t tell myself that everything will be fine, because that’s not the truth short-term. I can’t just eat all the ice cream in the world. I can’t hide. I can’t run away. I can’t just mindlessly browse facebook looking for happiness in the pictures of others.

What can I do?

I can breathe.  In.  And out. I can pray.  Lord, give us strength and peace.  Help us to get through whatever path we end up on. I can smile. I can be strong.  Because I’m not the one in pain.  Because I have to be strong. I can breathe.  In.  And out. I can turn off the computer and read a book to the kids. I can change my inner monologue from one of fear and despair to one of acceptance and hope.

This is it.  We’ve had a year and a half of this medication working.  And it’s over.  What are we going to do now?  We don’t really have any other options.  Is Cee going to have to start steroids again?  Have we lost all the ground we’ve gained?  She still hasn’t really caught up growth-wise.  How are we going to get through the school year?  How are we going to get through tomorrow?  Why can’t she catch a break?

I can release these thoughts and choose new ones to replay over and over in my mind.

We have had one day of pain.  Tomorrow is a new day.  The weather has been changing, she’s eaten a few things she probably shouldn’t have.  That comes with giving her greater control over her arthritis.  That’s how she’s going to internalize the constraints of managing her pain independently.  Even if everything falls apart, we’ve done the best we can.  We only have her interests in mind.  We will get through this.

We will get through this.

Maybe tomorrow will find us firmly on the right path in a meadow of daisies and roses.  Maybe tomorrow will find us back in the d-a-m-n cave.  Either way, we have each other.  We will get through this.

Happiness in a cave is a choice.  I can’t do anything about my circumstances right now.  But I can choose how I’m going to react.

I am going to breathe. I am going to smile. I am going to hope.

I am going to shut off the computer and go read some books.  We’ve got a whole basket of library books just begging to be read.  With a smile.


Alisha Schonhardt is a wife and mother to five. She blogs at 'Sweeping Up Joy' where this post originally appeared.


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