Titus on sofa
titus photo 2

It’s Mother’s Day 2024 and a spectacular spring day here in New Westminster (a city in Metro Vancouver for those who are not local). I have a sweet little 6-month-old puppy on the sofa next to me, finally taking a nap after 3+ hours of constant playing—not only with his own toys but also with a box of tissues that had been left within puppy reach! If only I could harness even an ounce of that puppy energy. Young Titus is our neighbour’s dog. He has a small stature at maybe 10lbs (4.5 kg) or so, but he already has a huge personality. I am puppy-aunt for a few hours today, feeling gratitude for the reminder to find joy and wonder in simple things as I watch and laugh with Titus and his puppy antics. I find these reminders of joy and wonder often come from animals, nature, and children.

rachel and paul australia

My “Australian Experiment”

I have been challenged to practice finding joy and wonder particularly this year. I was lucky enough to spend the holidays in December last year with my family in Australia and this time Paul (my husband, for those who are new to this blog) could join me. I stayed on after Paul left in mid-January. My intention was to stay until February 29 and continue what I call my “Australian Experiment” aka to live and work from Australia for 2-3 months per year. I started in December 2021 and that was for almost 4 months until April 2022 (I wanted to make up for being unable to visit my family in Australia for almost 2 years).

This time, the plan was for a 2+ month duration so after Paul returned to New Westminster, I worked remotely from Australia meeting clients again. A week after he left, I was thrust into isolation after testing positive for Covid for the second time (the first time was in July 2021). While the enforced solitude allowed me to sleep a lot to heal, I was disappointed and frustrated, feeling that precious time with my family was slipping away. Not to mention the guilt about the disruption and inconvenience to my family.

Slower is Faster”

I gave myself permission to slow down my work schedule post-Covid. I enjoyed time with my family again after I was testing negative and deemed “safe”. I repeated “Slower is Faster” to myself to stay on track. Wise words from one of my esteemed teachers, Bruce Ecker, MA, LMFT. I had scheduled vacation time with my family for the last 10 days in February before returning to Canada. It was a test of my self-discipline not to use that time to make up for being unable to work while I was sick with Covid for a week. It was sad to say goodbye to my family at the end of February, but we plan to see each other again in 2025, so that is something to look forward to. I came home to New Westminster, happy to be with Paul again, returning home and to see my friends and communities here.

Farewell, Dear Friend

My next challenge to joy and wonder was the loss of a dear friend and fellow counsellor who had been a significant part of my career as a helping professional since I met her 12+ years ago. She was no longer able to keep battling the rare form of lymphoma that had ravaged her for 2 years. Within a week of my return home, she passed before I had been able to see her again. I was in shock for the following week. I deeply felt the loss of this sweet, wise, funny, amazing, and courageous friend who felt like a sister to me. Surprisingly, the healing of this grief journey began as I sat with and held space for her husband and daughters. Their raw, vulnerable outpouring of their shattered hearts allowed me to connect into my pain and sorrow.

The wonder and joy moment amid my grief unfolded after I was invited to be part of a small gathering of her close family and friends for her cremation ceremony. She was still as beautiful in death. The love she brought into the world endures in my heart and in others who loved and were fortunate to know her. That was apparent in the stories shared in the final circle where we sat with and in honour of her life and the gifts of her beingness. I know as with so many of my past grief experiences that I will always miss her, but she was one of my teachers to help integrate my grief and this feels like yet another gift she has bestowed on me.

back in australia

Expect the Worst and Hope for the Best

Another significant challenge to joy and wonder for me this year was a family emergency that sent me back to Australia on March 22. Paul and I were booked to fly to Mexico that day. We were to join the wedding celebration of another dear friend we have known for over 20 years. Paul was honoured and excited to be one of the groomsmen. We had started packing our bags the night before and I woke expecting to add some last-minute items to our suitcase and leave around 11:00 am for the airport. I woke at 6:00 am and Mum had left a message a few minutes earlier around midnight AEDT in Australia, so I knew it was not good news.

Mum told me that Dad was scheduled for urgent high-risk surgery for the next day which would be Sunday in Australia. The earliest I could fly back to Sydney was to depart at 11 pm PT and arrive on Sunday, March 24 around 9 am AEDT due to the time difference. I would not arrive until after Dad went into surgery. I had listened to The Discipline of Finishing talk by Conor Neill the day before. His inspiring talk about discipline speaks to integrity when it comes to your decisions, actions and what we may say is important to us. He states that “the coherence between your diary and your values is where integrity begins”. As if to test the validity and resonance of his message, there was no doubt about my decision to fly to be with my family. 

It was surreal to be flying to Sydney alone rather than to Mexico with Paul. The juxtaposition of anticipatory grief against sharing the happiness of a wedding celebration with friends was profound and stark. Expecting the worst, Paul and I decided he would wait at home in case he needed to fly to Sydney in the next couple of days to join me. We surmised it would be easier to fly from YVR to SYD than Mexico to SYD. We regretted not being able to celebrate with our friends for their destination wedding, but they completely supported and understood our decision. At 10 pm PT before my flight departed from YVR, Mum let me know that Dad had stabilized, and the doctors said he could wait until Monday to meet with his regular surgeon. That was a huge relief to hear I would see my father before the surgery when I arrived.

Relief and Gratitude

The joy and wonder appeared again with relief and gratitude when Dad pulled through the 4.5-hour complex surgery. He was discharged after 9 days. He is still recovering but is happy to be home now and is slowly getting better. Thank you to all for the messages of support and concern. I was grateful to be there in person to be able to help support and help my family at this difficult time. The silver lining was that I was able to spend the Easter holidays (a very family-focused time in Australia) and celebrate my niece’s 10th birthday with her and my family.

back in canada

“Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway”

I arrived back in New Westminster again on April 13 (a month ago) and I am finally over my latest dose of jet lag. This blog post has been percolating for the last couple of months. While I enjoy writing and journal daily, my self-critic can edit me so much, I freeze. Today, I am choosing to “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway”. It feels risky and vulnerable to write so plainly and personally. I was reminded recently not to let “perfection stop progress”, so this is me making my own progress and blogging again.

Here I am, one word at a time, seeking out the joy and wonder in my life and career to mitigate the times when I feel less inspired, overwhelmed, miserable, and defeated. I realize as I write this, it helps remind me how many more experiences of joy and wonder I could share, and they outweigh the challenges in quantity. These include time spent with family, friends, peers, and clients. These are times in different aspects of my life and career – in my home, out in nature, in my community. These are times of loving, laughing, learning, and living.


Your Ingredients for Joy and Wonder?

Last week, one of my clients spoke of her discovery during our session of a “morsel of delight”. I loved her use of the word morsel. In Positive Psychology, the term “savour” is used to describe a strategy for increasing happiness and well-being by intentionally engaging deeply and mindfully with positive experiences. The process of savouring involves taking the time to fully enjoy and appreciate the positive aspects of one’s life. The ideal outcome for this practice is to enhance emotional resilience and create greater fulfillment in life. Savouring encourages us to not only experience but also to deeply relish and prolong the positive emotions connected with life’s pleasures, whether they are small everyday moments or significant life events.

The words morsel and savour evoke culinary pleasure for me. My offering to you, Dear Reader, is to consider where you may observe your ingredients for joy and wonder in your life and career. My hope is that when your life and/or career feel arduous and you want to ease the drudgery, that you might choose to seek out a morsel, a bite, or a magnificent feast you can savour. Ultimately, that you will discover your own ingredients and recipe for Joy and Wonder in your life and career. 

I would be delighted to hear your experience if you decide to experiment with this exploration of seeking more joy and wonder in your life and career. As a thank you, I will share my list of 20 personal additional Joy and Wonder experiences from January to May 2024 with you.