Sharpen Your Sense of Joy

Jamie Hughes avatar

by Jamie Hughes |

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Believe it or not, summer is nearing its end, and a new school year is upon us. I don’t know about you all, but I loved back-to-school time. It meant new things to learn, friends to make and activities to try. It involved a new wardrobe, too, but most of all it meant new school supplies.

Maybe I’m a freak for this, but I relished getting a new backpack and lunchbox (preferably a metal one with an ’80s cartoon character emblazoned on the outside and a matching Thermos inside). Then filling the former with shiny new pink erasers, virgin composition notebooks, glue, crayons, pencils and markers. The thought of it makes me positively giddy to this day. Office supply stores are like crack houses to me.

The first day of school is a blank slate, totally untapped potential. It was the kickoff of a nine-month adventure filled with challenges and delights. And even though I’d done it before, it never failed to thrill me. I recognized the hallways, lunchrooms, classrooms and libraries around me; the territory wasn’t new. They looked, sounded and smelled the same, but somehow, school never felt ho-hum or boring.

On the contrary, so much of adulthood can feel like drudgery, especially when you have to do it with multiple sclerosis and with all the roadblocks it can throw in your path. A new task isn’t always cause for excitement or delight; instead, you have to think through all the “what ifs” and ask some frustrating questions. Will I be able to do this before the fatigue kicks in? Am I up to the challenge mentally, physically and emotionally? And what do I do if one of the answers is “no”? It’s not that we can’t savor things; it’s just a little more difficult to let go and embrace them fully with all of this in the back of our minds.

Having kids, whether naturally or through adoption like I did, allows you to relive those golden moments of childhood and provides you with a little perspective on the things you face as a grown-up. I look forward to getting my two boys ready each year (probably more than they do). I may not be breaking in all the new goodies, but I still get to enjoy shopping for them and getting them packed up in pristine bags that we stage near the door with new shoes, lunchboxes and water bottles at the ready.

This year, as I was going through their lists and checking things off, I realized I was having fun. That’s something that I don’t experience as often as I’d like — and if I’m honest about it, that’s really my fault. No one and nothing — not even MS — took it away from me. I let it get rusty and funky with disuse.

Joy is an amazing thing. Sometimes, it comes totally unbidden. Other times, it has to be cultivated. And I think the latter is more often the case. Yes, we’re dealing with a pretty janky medical condition that makes things harder than they should be, but letting that get in the way of celebrating and enjoying life isn’t OK. We can find the joy in our work. In our chores. In our commitments and relationships. In our workaday comings and goings. It’s there and always has been. We’ve just lost the ability to see it clearly; we’ve forgotten that we had a choice in the matter. Finding the joy means we have to keep that ability awake and alive — and as sharp as a No. 2 pencil.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Leah avatar


I too know how hard it is to have to go through all those questions before deciding if something is worth risking your health for. Instead joy has to come from the simplist and smallest of things.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Simple is good, I agree. But there are times when I have to make the choice to live big, to not let moments pass me by. It's a real delicate balance some days.


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