How to Find Joy in the Midst of Adversity: Living Your Dream Life

Heading up the Mesa, with views front, back, and all around.
Heading up the Mesa, with views front, back, and all around. | Source
Headin' into a mud puddle
Headin' into a mud puddle | Source
Beautiful coyote.
Beautiful coyote. | Source

Ever have one of those days, or weeks? You know the ones. When your plans get overruled, what you had hoped to get accomplished is completely derailed, and the sunny weather you had hoped for suddenly takes a turn becoming harsh and inhospitable. Or you find that life is just plain hard?

A friend of mine, who also lives in Northern New Mexico, described being off-grid as constantly living in an emergency situation. Having never thought of it that way I was initially taken aback. But I certainly see her point. The level of self-reliance is quite different than living in a populated area with all the services one needs “piped in,” so to speak. We don’t have hook-ups of any kind out here.

Moving here a full year ago now, was an adventure, and despite having put in solar, a well, septic, a warm home and a back-up generator, the adventure certainly continues. Daily living is an adventure. Everything takes more time, more thought, more planning, more effort. After having four flat tires in our first two months we stopped referring to that part of our journey home - which is three and a half miles beyond the paved road - as a dirt road. It is, more accurately, a trail. And as I have often said, in response to the incredulity of workers and visitors, hey, you can’t have views like these if you don’t make the effort to climb up rocks and ruts and steep, narrow passages like these.

I remember the first time I encountered fast running water in one of the few arroyos that cross our trail. Following the advice given earlier by a neighbor who said the only thing to do is to wait it out, I stopped my truck and enjoyed the waterfall cascading off the nearby drop of a tall, beautiful red rock formation. True to my neighbor’s estimate, after about twenty minutes, the water receded and the arroyo bottom became a soggy, sandy thoroughfare and easily passable. By the way, when I refer to a neighbor, we do have some; the closest of whom is about a mile away.

Last week after some heavy rains, I was headed out toward the Turquoise Trail and encountered a couple of very deep mud puddles. Once in close view, I stopped, put the Jeep in four-wheel drive low, gripped the steering wheel as if it were the reins of a bucking bronco, and hit the gas. WooHoo! I went through it and continued on slipping and sliding along the deep mud and muck as if on a favorite ride at Disneyland. One time with deep snow and ice on our trail, I found myself sliding back down a steep incline because I hadn’t started up with enough speed. Another time I ended up sliding on ice and got way too close to the drop-off down the mesa; the trail is real narrow in spots and there is no margin for error. During these fleeting moments I haven’t felt joy, I’ve felt fear. Not panic or terror, but that kind of healthy, respectful, bristling, acute awareness that says be exceptionally careful or you might be really sorry.

There are hazardous conditions at times, and an occasional element of danger. But where can one live without this? I would much rather encounter rattlesnakes and coyotes in nature than crime and inhumane behaviors in a city. I would rather have a dirt trail in bad weather than be on a busy highway. I would rather turn on our generator when the batteries are low, than experience another power outage and sit around waiting for the utility company to make repairs. I would rather have a home-based business rather than depend upon an employer who may or may not value me. I would rather be as self-reliant as possible rather than depend upon a bankrupt government to support me.

So for me, I can always find the joy, the beauty and the blessings even in the midst of harsh environmental realties, the absence of certain comforts and common conveniences, gratefully putting forth the extra effort that most simple necessities require. How do you find your joy? Start by realizing that you have the power of personal choice. You have the power to choose your thoughts and you determine the way you view the world.

Some important things to keep in mind when looking for your joy are these. Remember that we choose to be where we are. You may think you are in a certain place because of someone or something else, but it is always a choice. Also, everything in life is a trade-off. Everything. I gave up many amenities, benefits and luxuries, and I have to work much harder physically to have the breathtaking beauty which literally surrounds me. So instead of thinking about what I gave up, I celebrate what I have chosen and all that I have gained. It is an incredible blessing to live up here. And while it is definitely not for everyone, nor even for very many, it is my dream. What is your dream? What are you willing to give up or trade, and how creatively and persistently are you willing to work in order to be living your dream?

If you want something badly enough you will almost always find a way to get it. This is true in business and in pleasure. It is true in life. The variables are usually related to time, or timing, and the effort you put forth. I have learned that the “why” and the “what” are up to you and me; while the “timing” and the “how” are up to God and the universe.

In the same way that fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin, joy can be found and celebrated in the midst of intense challenges and real adversity. The more compelling your dream or the greater your vision, the more challenges you’ll experience. The more challenges you face and conquer, the more you will have to enjoy. There will always be pain and loss; hard decisions and tough choices. And there is always the possiblity of more, much more. Why stay stuck, settle for less, or choose to coast through your days when you can stretch yourself, grow in knowledge and self-awareness, live a bigger, richer life and feel more fully alive?

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