Adapted from a recent online discussion.
In tough times, write joy and accomplishment into your life
Q: It's been a bad time for my husband and me. We dealt with a late miscarriage about a year ago, followed by surgery related to the miscarriage. I haven't been able to get pregnant again, and multiple people around me have had babies (two very close to my due date) or are getting pregnant.
My job is probably not going to last beyond spring. I have been looking for another job for months, have been on more interviews than I ever thought I would get, but still don't have a new position.
I'm beginning to feel like maybe I don't deserve to have things go right. I know everyone has ups and downs, but I feel like I've been down so long, with nothing changing, that this might just be the new normal for me.
How do you continue feeling hopeful about anything when so many things go wrong? I have seen a therapist. She did help, but it's still going to hurt when I find out yet another friend is pregnant or wait another week with no job offer.
A: It will hurt, yes. And if you've lost hope, then depression screening is a must.
But when things aren't working out, also don't underestimate the power of writing joy and accomplishment into your schedule.
What are you reliably good at, what reliably gives you great pleasure or great results, what reliably puts smiles on your face? It's so personal that it's hard even to make suggestions, but for some people it's exercise, for some it's giving their time to cause, for some there's renewal in friends/hobbies/projects. For many it's just getting to the other side, knowing you have a favorite show/good book and solitude/the person you love waiting for you at the end of the day.
My personal version, if I may: Billy the Dog serves that purpose for me. So many things I do bring complicated results, mainly work — the same column will be applauded by one reader and shredded by another, the problems readers send me can move me to tears, etc. — and being a mom, which I know I'm lucky to be, but which also comes with very difficult lows, since all kids struggle at times with the world and with their parents. It's their job to.
But with my medium brown rescue mutt, if I meet his basic needs, then I'm his hero. He's hairy proof that I can do something right on days when I've done nothing right.
You, like everyone, have a way to bring comfort or beauty to others. While you say "so many things go wrong," I actually count two in your letter — losing your baby (and your ongoing fertility struggle) and losing your job (and your ongoing struggle to find a new one). I don't mean to minimize either; they're two of life's most profound challenges, and you're facing both at once.
But you are more than your job and your fertility. You have your general health, your wits, your talents, your heart, your marriage, your friends, your extended family and your other abilities, connections and interests to sustain you, and potentially move you forward. Whenever you need them to be, they are proof of your strength.