I am discovering that keeping my mental health while I am receiving skilled nursing care is easy. All of my resources are centered around one thing: getting well enough to be released. Everyone around me is encouraging me toward that goal. It’s once I’m out that things get difficult. I am out on my own, left to answer the questions: “what now? What makes this life worth the struggle?”

At the end of 2009, I was in transitional care for six weeks healing from surgery for a stage IV decubitus ulcer. (That’s a really bad pressure sore.) In early 2010, fresh out of the care center, I attended a concert. There was a moment, when the voices blended into a beautiful chord and I felt my spirit soaring to meet them. “This.” I thought. “Moments of sheer beauty like this.”

Here I am again: in post-hospitalization existential fumbling. I am reaching for joy. I’ve just finished reading Ethan Nichtern’s  The Road Home. “Maybe,” I think, inspired by Nichtern, “joy is about having my body and mind synchronized.” I remember moments when my mind was entirely focused on my body’s pain. Maybe not just synchronization, then. Try again. “Joy is about having my body and mind brought together in beauty.” Yes.

I remember the last time I was on a swing. It was at a Renaissance Festival in California. This swing was a bench wide enough for six people. Daughter Alexis, then six years old was sitting next to me. Husband Ralph lifted me from my wheelchair onto the swing. There was that lovely swish of air past our faces, the little swoop in our stomachs as the swing moved back and forth. We giggled.

Yes. Mind and body brought together in beauty.

[Kind promise: I will live joyfully for no reason.]