And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

One of the nice things about doing these moments only once a week is there’s time to allow a moment to develop. Sometimes, different things happen over days and then they all combine into a moment of realization. That was this week. This will be a bit rambly.  I hope it makes sense.

This afternoon, I read from Hilma Wolitzer’s novel, An Available Man, where a character said, “I believe in God, but I just don’t like him very much right now.” I understood that. Most of us probably do.

Last Thursday, the book Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News debuted at a Southeast Wisconsin Special event. During the interview on stage, I was asked to explain what I said about my own spirituality on such-and-such a date. So I talked about how I consider myself a seeker, someone who knows there’s something out there, but just doesn’t know what, and keeps looking and exploring.

At that moment, and then again today, I thought of my own novel, Rise From The River. This will sound weird, but I learned more about faith from my own character, Doris, than I ever have from anybody (and yes, I am aware that I created her). Doris, a devoutly Catholic woman, runs to the church to find answers as to why her neighbor was raped, and why it had to occur in front of a 4-year old child. “Where was God?” she asks the priest. The priest answers, “They’re alive, aren’t they? Rainey wasn’t murdered? And the little girl…the rapist didn’t touch her? God was there, Doris. What happened is just unthinkable. But maybe what didn’t happen is even more unthinkable. Beyond it. God was there.”

I distinctly remember writing those words and then my hands falling still and I slumped back in my chair and thought, Where the hell did that come from? From me?

Then at the launch, I read a piece from Today’s Moment that ended with, “They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And I’m still standing, aren’t I.”

Breast cancer was unthinkable. But maybe what didn’t happen was even more unthinkable.

And then I had a poem accepted yesterday. The first poem I wrote on the breast cancer topic. The title? What Doesn’t Kill You.

Let’s keep going. Yesterday, I was being interviewed on a morning television talk show. One of the hosts asked me, “Are you an optimist?” I immediately and gut-level replied, “No!” Both hosts were noticeably taken aback. I backpedaled and said, “Or at least…I wasn’t…”

And then I thought about that. I’ve always called myself a natural skeptic. Years ago, when I was in grad school, I was sitting in a meeting with my new adviser and his students. One woman noted that it was interesting that we were all redheads. “Even the one who always looks so skeptical,” she said. She was looking at me. “Huh?” I said. “You always look skeptical. No matter if you’re in workshop or lecture. Always.” So apparently, I wore my skepticism like other women wear make-up.

But now, I was being asked if I was an optimist, and in a way that it was clear I was supposed to answer yes. I said no. But…

A few days ago, a review of Today’s Moment appeared. It said, “Despite the difficult times in life, the book radiated pure joy.”

Last Wednesday, when I was Featured Poet in a poetry series, I read this line from one of my very own poems: “…And an underlying vein of joy that I rarely admit to.”

Good grief. Am I an optimist?

Earlier this week, I said to someone, “I feel like I was supposed to learn something from the breast cancer. I can feel it. But I’m not sure what it is.”

Tonight, I opened up an online fortune cookie that I get every day for fun. It said:

It is never really a bad thing to have your eyes opened or to learn. Just be sure that you remember that there are always bright spots and room to grow.

And I laughed out loud because I was just walloped upside the head with the obvious. And the infusion of joy I felt left me trembling.

What doesn’t kill you…I’m still standing…Am I an optimist?

I had something to learn. It was in me all along.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Joy. Yeah, I can see it. Now.

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