My mother was a woman of great wisdom. Among her favourite sayings, two stand out: “Don’t let anyone steal your joy”’ and, from Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Whenever friends or relatives were feeling down or in crisis, she said those words. She even said them to me a few times.
Until recently, I didn’t realize how deeply these words were embedded in my soul. They are the foundation of my strength and my belief that no matter what happens, things will always get better.
Those words helped me get through an especially trying time two years ago. In the summer of 2007, I left our home to give my then husband space so he could decide whether or not he still wanted to be married. He wasn’t happy, he said. I was no longer the love of his life. He wanted out and nothing I did was going to change his mind.
I begged. I cried. I prayed daily to God to change his mind, to make him stay. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to be wrong. I didn’t want to face my friends and family with the news that my marriage had broken down.
The questions constantly running through my mind were agony. How could I have been wrong about him? How could I have chosen a man who could hurt me so badly? How would I find the strength to go on?
All of these questions made me feel dizzy, powerless, paralysed. Yet, little by little, the words of my mother began bubbling up to the surface: “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.”
The “anyone” in this case was my husband. So each day I prayed and begged God for change, for an instant miracle. When it didn’t happen, I would be sad again, but those six little words would rise up from deep within my thoughts and I would see a small glimmer of light.
Joy for me had always been a feeling of peace. It was apparent in my love of myself and my confidence. By letting his actions – his decision to leave the marriage –affect how I acted and how I felt about myself, I was letting him steal my joy.
This situation continued and came to a head in November of 2007 when he finally left our marriage. I was devastated. I was angry at God. I had never cried so much. I cried until it felt like there was no water left in my body.
Yet, again, the words of my mother came to my mind: “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
I held on to those words like a person drowning holds on to a life jacket. Each night my friend would talk to me for hours. We would be angry at times, then sad at times, but most times we would just talk and talk. She simply allowed me to heal. She allowed me to get out my hurt. She allowed me to complain, but not to wallow; to create a new plan. She allowed me to focus on those words that my mother always said.
Then my mother was right there in the morning to do her check- in. After inquiring about how my night went and hearing me say “Okay” she would say: “Sun – not down ‘ man nah cry’”, which is a Caribbean saying that loosely translates to “As long as the sun is still present on the earth, we have hope. And once there is hope, things will get better.” Then, being a deeply spiritual woman, she would get into prayer with me, and this would heal me. My mother refused to let him or, rather, the situation of the divorce, steal my joy. His actions were his actions and I could not control them. I could choose to be happy or I could choose to be unhappy. This cycle of healing continued in the evening with my best friend and in the morning with my mom. “Weeping may endure for the night – but joy comes in the morning.”
I fell asleep to those words and I woke feeling a bit better every day. Then one morning, in about March of 2008, I woke up and realized that I was no longer sad, that I no longer felt paralysed and that the joy was coming back into my heart. I was going to be okay! I had more joy than weeping!
Thanks to my mother, I had a foundation of hope; a belief that negative circumstances will always turn around. Even though I couldn’t see it, my soul knew that joy would follow the sadness in my life.
Thanks to the words of my mother, I knew in my soul that I alone was responsible for my happiness. I knew that by letting the actions of others control me, I was letting them steal my joy – joy that comes from the light of the divine living within me.
The lesson my mother’s words taught me, and for which I am forever grateful, is this: When we let someone steal our light, we lose control of our lives.
Keep that light burning bright! Build yourself a foundation of love and hope, just like the one my mother built for me.