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Key 10: Be content, whatever your circumstances.

A young friend dropped by to invite me to participate in a major fundraiser for the local hospital. When I thanked her for her involvement in the community, she said, “I had some difficulty when we first moved here, but someone advised me to bloom where I am planted.”

As a college student I dreamed of going to New York and writing editorials for the New York Times. I wanted to change the world. Then I fell in love and freely abandoned my dreams, choosing instead to be a wife and mother in South Texas. I too became involved in my community, and I hope that I have made a difference. I have never regretted my decision. I have never thought “if only…” or wondered “what if…?”

Keys to Joy thumbnailWhile outwardly the transition from wife to widow might appear less dramatic than the difference between a New York newspaper career and a traditional role in a small city in South Texas, inwardly it was many times more difficult. Shortly after I was widowed, an older, more experienced widow said, “If you settle for contentment instead of happiness, you will be okay.”

But I didn’t want to settle for less than happiness. I wanted to reclaim joy. I struggled to accept my situation, especially at Christmastime.

No one describes it better than Genevieve Davis Ginsburg in her book, Widow to Widow:

“Holidays test the spirit. They are double-bind days: You want to be part of the festivities and at the same time pull the blankets up over your head until it all goes away. For the newly widowed, the days from Thanksgiving until New Year’s could easily be turned in for scrap….Nothing works and everything hurts. Participating in the holiday dinner of former friends is a lonely affair…. The fact is we really don’t want to be part of someone else’s tradition….”

Contentment is an acquired taste. It does not come naturally. I have to work at it. I have role models in my family, whom I described here in a blog written last summer. And I have moved beyond contentment to happiness and joy. As I tweeted a new, young widow who is struggling with the holidays, “Good news: it will get better. Bad news: it takes far longer than anyone tells us.”

Photos: Top, by Luis Llerena for; click on the photo of the open Bible to go to the list of 12 keys to reclaiming joy.