Minutes before she’s to give a presentation at the Mount Hermon Conference Center, Margaret Feinberg answers a phone call from a number she doesn’t recognize. It’s her doctor.
He tells her that both masses in her breast are positive. Carcinoma. Both of them. She needs to schedule surgery.
Her husband is there, and she goes to him. He knows without her saying a word. They’ve been waiting on this call. He holds her, and she asks one question.
“What if we fight back with joy?”
She goes on to make her presentation, or as she writes in Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, “I delivered my talk that morning. Barely.”
Feinberg is clear. This isn’t a joyful experience. The emotional fears and scars start immediately. The fear is there. “I was now a member of the guild no one wants to join. I discovered that once you’re in, everyone lends a hand. “Our shared experiences, desire to fight back, and will to survive bind us together.”
She points the fight, this fight in life, beyond her immediate breast cancer. All of us share a fight, because all of us are human, broken, fearful, scarred, battling our own fights that are awful if not as scary as what a person with cancer faces.
This is all part of life. And we can surrender, or we can fight. With joy.
“From the day of the diagnosis,” she says, “I felt compelled to choose a different type of weapon: joy…Joy would not deny the hardship, but would choose to acknowledge and face it no matter what the outcome.”
This isn’t about a feeling. Feinberg defines joy much more broadly than that, to encompass all of the positive, beneficial, good things in our lives. It is a practice, and I suspect Feinberg didn’t just practice it daily but also hourly and, often, minute by minute.
The darkness – defined by cancer, other diseases, addictions, depression, financial setbacks, job losses – that darkness will not win.
What happens is that the outcome becomes less important than the path to the outcome.
Life is hard, and often “always hard” rather than “often hard.” But that hardness is also not the outcome or the point.
“Joy is your heritage, purpose and destiny,” she writes.
And the focus becomes how to practice joy daily, no matter what the circumstances.
It’s difficult to read this chapter of Fight Back With Joy without tears. But tears, too, are part of the joy.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading Margaret Feingberg’s Fight Back with Joy. To see other posts on this chapter, “A Choice That Changed Everything,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.