Finding Joy in Unusual Places
A year after losing her husband to cancer, the author found an unusual route to finding joy again in her life – she signed up for a 2,500- mile motorcycle road trip down America’s Pacific Northwest Coast riding a Harley. “The problem was that I didn’t know how to ride and had only thirty days to learn.”
Many important discoveries are made by accident; most of us have heard about inventions that were discovered by people searching for something different. The pacemaker, penicillin, post-it notes, corn flakes and even the slinky and silly putty are a just a few. But scientists aren’t the only ones who can be surprised by results that defy logical assumptions.
I’ve found that one thing many of us want more of is “happiness.” Even better yet is its more elusive cousin—joy. Since we can’t demand joy to appear on command, where do we find it?
Imagine yourself after a major setback deciding that it’s time to feel joy again. You’re standing in the countryside with three road choices in front of you marked:
• Route 1: Self pampering
• Route 2: Instant Pleasure
• Route 3: Difficult challenge – Travel at Your Own Risk!
You assess your options, asking yourself which road is most likely to take you to your destination of boundless joy. Which one would you choose? I’ve recently traveled these three routes and made an unusual discovery along the way.
A year after losing a husband to cancer, I was ready to reengage in life and most of all experience deep joy again. Experts advised me to choose Route 1, to pamper and be good to myself. Dutifully, I splurged on 800-thread-count bed linens, joined a gym, knitted 40 scarves, and tried dozens of other things.
Friends encouraged me to indulge in instant pleasures. Exploring Route 2, I enjoyed previously forbidden rich desserts, scheduled a spa day, bought a stack of new jazz CDs, and turned off my alarm and slept in late.
Although Routes 1 and 2 were pleasurable while I was doing them, the feeling from each soon wore off, and I found myself needing a new fix soon thereafter. But an even more important limitation of these two routes was that I hadn’t experienced the kind of sustaining joy that makes lasting memories and would renew my spirit again and again.
Eighteen months later, I was still miserable. Needing to shake up my life, I decided if traditional advice doesn’t work, it was time to try something radically different. I signed up for a 2,500-mile motorcycle road trip down America’s Pacific Northwest Coast riding a Harley. The problem was that I didn’t know how to ride and had only thirty days to learn.
This motorcycle journey that started out as an escape vacation quickly turned into a formidable challenge. Learning to ride and balance a full-sized-800-pound machine was much harder than I imagined. I failed the 3-day motorcycle training class and couldn’t pass the DMV’s motorcycle license road test in three more attempts. But I kept practicing in spite of the setbacks and difficulty. On my fourth attempt, I shocked myself and passed with a perfect score. When I did, I erupted spontaneously with uncontrollable joy. I was happier than I had been in the previous two years. Joy came from accomplishing what I had grown to believe was an insurmountable goal.