“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
Powerful quote, right?
If you are a fan of the “America’s Got Talent” TV show, you may have seen an Audrey Hepburn look-a-like called Nightbirde. She took the stage and mesmerized the audience and judges with her original song entitled “It’s Okay.”
Her actual name is Jane Marczewski. We learned that she has Stage 4 cancer and only a 2% chance of survival. She stated that she wrote the song for herself “in the middle of the night when I needed those words so bad.” Following remission from cancer, she experienced a devastating recurrence, after which her husband of five years divorced her, saying he “didn’t want to do it anymore.” Those events form the backstory of her dark night of the soul that led to her heartfelt song.
The singer was upbeat, smiling, and when she finished singing, the audience and judges gave her a standing ovation. As each judge commented on her performance and attitude, she graciously thanked them. Simon Cowell, a notoriously tough judge who has softened over the years, complimented her voice, spoke about her authenticity, and mentioned how she had “almost casually told us what you’re going through,” before he choked up and stopped.
That’s when she stunned us by interjecting the powerful quote above. In the video, she said that doctors gave her a 2% chance of survival, and remarked that 2% is better than zero. She’s realistic about her chances but is fully living while she’s here.
Simon Cowell pressed the “golden buzzer,” allowing Nightbirde to advance directly to the live shows in the competition. But, before the live shows began, her health further deteriorated. She had to withdraw from the competition to concentrate on fighting her resurgent cancer. In her video message, she focused on her appreciation of the opportunity she had been given to share her song and story with the world. She said it was the most beautiful experience of her life.
Look for Bright Spots, Discover Your Joy
When I talk about finding the joy in everyday life, people often say, “Am I supposed to be happy every moment? That seems unrealistic!” Then they go on to list whatever difficulties, hardships, or disappointments they’re confronting. I answer that life is about making the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. Not every moment is joyful, but the most satisfied people cultivate an attitude of looking for the bright spots in life and making the most of them.
To further illustrate, one of my high school friends, Liz, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few years ago. She was a social worker in Arkansas who had put herself through graduate school while supporting two young children as a single mom. I referred to Liz as a “plug-and-play party”: fun, enthusiastic about everything she did, absolutely loving, and hilarious.
When she was fighting cancer, she got to know everyone she dealt with at the treatment center. They looked forward to her infusion days because she was a friendly, sunny presence. When she was dying in hospice during the Christmas holidays, her husband, adult children, and their spouses gathered and threw a pajama party in her room. They all wore the most ridiculous holiday-themed pajamas they could find. Her grandson, Leon, less than a year old, wore a little Santa hat. Liz wore a matching hat on her bald head. There’s a video of Liz singing a song she made up on the spot to him.
She died later that month.
Does everything have to be perfect for you to enjoy your life? Conversely, do you have to stare down death to appreciate your life?
If you struggle with making and enjoying a satisfying life, therapy can help. Contact me and let’s get started.
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