A field of colorful tuips

Great pain and little joys

Trigger warning: implied suicidal ideation 

When I was around 20 years old, I came across a book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. It really spoke to me. But then I got to a chapter that I didn’t understand. She wrote how little joys help to overcome bad life situations. She illustrated this by an example – how her grandma loved tending to her garden, whatever came. 

My thinking was very black and white then. I thought “How can I feel joy when I feel bad? If I feel good, I feel GOOD, and if I feel bad, I feel BAD. That’s it.” I had severe mental health problems and I often felt bad, capital letters BAD. 

More than ten years later, I can say that I not only started to understand the message of a grandma finding little joys in her garden – I also became a student of little joys, and they helped me and continue to help me through terribly difficult times. 

Now I finally understand that feelings are complicated, we feel feelings in “layers” and we can feel more things at once. My little joys became an anchor, a lifeline that connected me to life in times so difficult that I felt I would rather be dead. When you have enough of them, they may not undo your suffering, but they form a safety net and don’t let you fall through.

I always remembered that if I was dead, if I was dead, I wouldn’t drink a cup of hot tea again, read a good book again… Those little things anchored me to life. 

So, as an illustration, here are some of my latest little joys:

I got a bouquet of bright yellow tulips for International Women’s day! Actually, I got a hug for International Women’s day and the flowers the following day, but I’m not a stickler for dates and I didn’t expect anything, so it was a beautiful surprise. Tulips are my favorite spring flowers, sunflowers are the autumn ones. Every spring, I wish to get some tulips, and when I do, I’m really happy about it. 

I petted two puppies in one day! With their owners’ permission, of course. (This is one of my little happy things – when I come home, my partner asks me: “How was your walk?” and I would say: “Successful! I petted three dogs today! 😄) And I learned that a grown border collie puppy can jump just high enough to lick your face 😄

I have walked along the edge of a field with tiny little green leaves sticking their peaks through the mud and I felt the life of the spring. 

It has been warmer lately and every day I go out, I turn my face towards the sun and soak the beautiful warmth. 

I’m making more of my favorite milk oolong lately (little joys need to be not only found but also created! :)) 


My mental health is really bad these days, but all those things added together act as a bridge over the darkness. They keep me sane. I’m glad I have strengthened my ability to find joy in the little things, even if I don’t feel it as strongly as I did when I was healthier. 

And you know, I believe this applies to travel as well. Because we can travel around the whole world, visit the most exotic places, but if we don’t have the appreciation for the little things that happen along the way, all of the small, beautiful moments, we may as well have stayed home. Because big joyful events are created from many small joyful moments.

I hope you have a joyful day! 😉

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