The Joy List

My husband was dying of cancer and I had cancer again.  (There was more but this is a joy, not a sob story.) 

I was distraught, grieving, overwhelmed, and exhausted.  

I honed down my daily goals to: 

  1. Spend time with my husband
  2. Exercise (sometimes achieved by walking up hospital stairs)
  3. Work on one job (always done—this goal became permission to do one job only instead of all of them on the “to do” list)
  4. Connect with someone (could be a 30 second conversation in an elevator)
  5. Write down three things/events/observations that brought joy

 I added number 5 because I noticed I was barging though life without experiencing joy.   I had read about and kept a “Gratitude List” years before, but there seemed to be a “should” with that practice.   I should be grateful that I had food and friends, wasn’t destitute, or maimed, etc.    I was, sometimes, but that list brought no peace. 

Looking for joy brought me the present.   Pausing to enjoy the sun’s warmth on my cheek, a scurrying chipmunk’s chattering, my husband’s relaxation when I arrived to his room, a stranger’s smile on an elevator, the delicious gooeyness of a Snicker’s bar…these all brought feelings which I came to call “joy.”    

I kept my list in my planner, which I have with me at all times.  At first, it was difficult to find three joyful moments every day.  I’d have to walk around looking for them.  But the habit took hold, and eventually there wasn’t enough room, even on a “bad” day, to write down all the joyful moments.   

I still cry during crisis or chaos, but this list leads me to happier days of living in the present. 

If you’d like, you could start your own joy list right here: 




                                                                                                                                                                        – A Grateful Life with Cancer Client


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2 Responses to “The Joy List”

  1. Anne Orchard Says:

    I really like this suggestion. I’ve often reminded people that being happy does not mean that everything must be sorted out and perfect – simply that for a moment you truly enjoy what you are experiencing. Laughter helps, too!

    Anne Orchard
    Author ‘Their Cancer – Your Journey’

  2. lifewithcancer Says:

    Yes Anne I agree completely. And it doesn’t mean that you have to be ‘happy” or filled with joy, all the time either.

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