This post is part of a series (hopefully) of real stories about people's lives and how they choose joy. Each person has been interviewed by me, and agreed to share their story with all of you. My hope is that this will strike some chord within our hearts, help us see that we, too, can rise above hardship, and help us see that there are other people out there similar to us.
Where do I begin? This girl has been a great friend of mine for about 5 years now. We met when we both had just broken up with boyfriends, and needed good company. Our mutual friend invited both of us over, and it was friendship gold after that! We spent the next several months doing everything together, and even found out that we had some college classes together and would be graduating together. Funny story, at our college graduation, my parents followed her with the video camera for a bit because we often get asked if we're sisters and they couldn't tell they had the wrong girl. I've even been to her house before and she thought I was one of her sisters so she didn't acknowledge that I'd come over. It's been a fun 5 years having her as a friend, and I couldn't be more excited to hear her story this week!
Ginene: Having joy to me means being able to forgive myself at the end of each day. It means I can realize that I am just human and make mistakes but that I can lift myself up and work on doing better next time. It means I love myself regardless of my many flaws and weaknesses and also love myself for the best in me.
Ginene: Spending time with my family brings me the very most joy. Getting to talk and cuddle up to my husband after he gets home from a long day at work brings be so much happiness. Watching my kids play and hug each other when they are making up from an argument. When my little boy Dylan comes and gives me a hug and tells me, “I love you Mommy.” And when I’m getting ready in the morning when he says, “Mama you look so beautiful!” Also when my one year old daughter Allie hugs the back of my legs and says, “Ello!!” Joy for me is looking at my unborn child (which will be my 3rd) for the first time on an ultrasound and thinking how amazing the gift of life is.
Spending time with my parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunt’s uncles, etc bring me tons of joy!!! Also spending time with amazing girlfriends who can relate to me in so many ways and we can share in our womanhood together regardless of where we are in our lives. I am so incredibly blessed when it comes to who I’ve been able to come across in this life and be able to call my family or friend.
Music is another big part of my life that brings me joy. It is so soothing to my soul when I hear a beautifully uplifting song that just makes me want to be a better person after listening to it. There is something about music that really touches my heart and lifts my spirit so strongly. I also feel some of the most joy when I am singing. I love to sing absolutely anywhere I can and I love that my children enjoy it when I do. Music is something that truly brings me joy.
Ginene: When I first started college I did not choose the guys I dated very wisely. They were not very respectful of me and mostly cared about the things they wanted over anything else. More than anything I tried to be who I thought they wanted me to be to make them happy. I didn’t have enough respect or love for myself to get out of these relationships and spent all of my college years in and out of them. I wondered how my life would ever end up the way I wanted. I wanted to marry a man that had strong values and high standards. Someone that loved me for exactly who I am and who would never want to compromise mine or their standards.
After all of the guys I had dated, it seemed almost impossible to find what I wanted. Not only that but I didn’t feel like I deserved all that I wanted in a man because of the little respect I had for myself and I was ashamed of how a lot of things had gone in my life. I felt like I could never pick up all of the pieces of my broken life and put them together the way I always wanted them to be. Shortly after graduating college, I met my husband who is the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
He not only had high standards and values, he was always very protective of mine. He showed me what it was like to be loved and valued for being me and only me. He never made me feel like I needed to be someone else for him in order to be loved or accepted. He understood and accepted my flaws and weaknesses for what they were and appreciated my strengths. I am so blessed to have found him because I am now living the life I have always dreamed of with someone I am truly happy with.
Ginene: The greatest stumbling block in all of this was myself. I needed to allow myself to find happiness and really come to recognize my worth. I had to take a really good look at myself and what I wanted and knew what I deserved in life. I did a lot of praying and received a lot of great advice from leaders I had at church. I also met with a counselor to help me work through things that had happened in my life which helped me to understand myself a lot better.
I was blessed to have a lot of supportive family and friends that helped me through my trials and helped to give me the courage and strength I needed to overcome. I know that my Heavenly Father had a great deal to do with all of the wonderful people that came into my life and the added strength I received. Becoming closer with my Heavenly Father is really what made the difference and wonderful changes that took place in my life.
Ginene: Through most of those trials I went through, I did not always choose happiness to get through them. There were too many times when I tried to only depend on myself and I didn’t very often try to reach out to anyone else for help or support. That was the main reason that it took me so long to get through the challenges I went through. Once I did reach out and allowed others to help me was when I felt the strongest and happiest. One thing that did bring me happiness through all of my trials was when I sang and performed. I was privileged to be a part of a very inspirational group where I gained many wonderful friends and was able to develop and strengthen talents. I am always grateful to have been able to be a part of that group.
Ginene: Through these experiences I feel that I learned a lot about myself and things I needed to change in order to live a happier life. I realized that I didn’t have to be someone that I’m not in order to please others. I also didn’t have to do or say things just to make others happy. I learned to be more true and honest with myself and others.
Ginene: Now I choose joy by accepting and loving myself for who I am regardless of my weaknesses. I have learned to accept my weaknesses for what they are and that I can overcome them little by little and a day at a time. I don’t place unrealistic expectations on myself or beat myself up like I used to for not living up to those expectations. I know that growth and progression take time and I should never expect myself to overcome any weakness of mine overnight. I have found that by doing so I have more love and patience for myself, and ultimately feel more peace and joy.
TJB: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Ginene. It's so important to remember the things you learned, that we have to be ourselves, and when we're true to ourselves, we can find peace. Being anyone else is just an uphill battle that doesn't work.