On feeling joy-less

Posted by on Nov 15, 2011 in Life in Laos | 18 comments

It is an unhappy sort of irony that ever since I switched the theme of my fruits of the spirit blog series to joy, joy has felt in rather short supply.

On Sunday Mike bundled baby bear and me into the car and took us on a surprise adventure for the afternoon – a trip to Zen, a resort on the Khan River, about half an hour from where we live.

It was a gorgeous spot on a relaxing Sunday afternoon and (despite the smile I have on my face in the photo above) how did I mostly feel? I mostly felt like this:

The neighbors behind the house have been using electric power tools to sand wood for hours every day for three weeks, which is about the same amount of time as I’ve been struggling with chronic neck pain. Mike’s away a third of the time at the moment. I’ve been worried about my milk supply. Ants keep mounting exploratory expeditions into our closet and underwear drawers and hiding places you wouldn’t expect, like cracks in the chair I routinely sit down to feed Dominic in. And Dominic, he can go most of the night without needing to eat now, but that doesn’t mean he stays asleep that whole time. Also, he seems to think 4 or 5am is the official start to the day. I can’t imagine where he got that idea from, Michael.

To make matters worse, as I’ve felt more and more depressed this last week I’ve also found myself increasingly tripping over my own inner shoulds.

I should not feel this way when I have a healthy child who smiles at me every day with the whole of his little face.

I should not feel this way when I am married to a man who means it when he tells me to wake him up if I need help in the middle of the night (when he’s in town, that is).

I should not feel this way while I live in a world where other women comb through my trash to collect empty tonic water cans – tonic water, incidentally, that I consumed with gin while sitting on the deck with Mike after he’d arrived home from work.

I should be able to hang onto a broader sense of joy, even on days when moment-by-moment happiness seems in short supply.

My inner shoulds can be useful in helping me effectively corral negative emotions, but this week they have compounded my problems. I have not only felt depressed, I have also felt weak. I have felt like a failure. I have looked out upon views like the one below and felt numb.

Do your inner shoulds help or hurt you? What inner shoulds do you find yourself tripping over?

This post is part of a series on the fruits of the spirit. The current theme is joy  (which, despite the week I’ve just lived through, I do expect to return to my life one day soon).

Related posts:

The rat has left the room
Sabaidee - The Banquet
When Laos is hard


  1. maybe the joy in your shoulds is exposing shoulds as shouldn’ts for the encouragement (and entertainment—I like D’s un-joy face) of others…?

    • It does help, I’ll give you that. Thrilled btw that you guys are making such rapid progress on settling in. Hang in there with the sub-par sleep and the whiplash of many huge transitions piling on top of each other in your life at present.

  2. One thing I was not prepared for with parenthood was the never ending questioning I do with every decision I make with Andrew. Did he eat enough, did he get down for his nap at the right time, did I do something to wake him up too early, am I eating the right things, is he eating the right things… etc. It can make a person crazy. It’s not the 100% joy-fest some people make it out to be. I had milk supply issues, if you are interested in what my ND pediatrician/ midwife recommended I’d be happy to share. Shoot me an email sometime if you like.

    • Oh my word I am SO with you on the decision thing, I was already planning on doing a post about this at some point!

  3. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he will always be there to help you come through it. Corinthians 10:19 (The message).

  4. Aww Lis, we’re thinking of you.
    It is okay (though a horrible burden) that you feel like this- and you are not alone. I just wish that I could take some of the burden away. You are not alone and it does get better.
    I was just thinking today that there are so few jobs that push you to the point of utter physical and mental exhaustion- but you still have to keep going regardless. And somehow remain supportive and nurturing at the same time.
    I may have told you before- but it was only when Anna was 9 months old that the sounds of her awaking from sleep did not fill me with dread and a gasped jolt of adrenaline.
    You are not alone and this does get better.
    Please keep writing like this and feel free to email me too.

    Lots of love, Amy

    • That is true, there are few jobs that literally never end. So much for work/life balance, though it’s not quite the same, I know, because in this case work literally also IS life and it’s also a beautiful thing and I wouldn’t want to put a fence between the two with regards to Dominic even if I could. But. Still. Thanks for reading and caring and commenting and being a lovely friend.

  5. What to say except I know you’ll make it, Lisa. Having had 4 sons in 7 years– intentionally—at least the 4 part—I get it. And there’s little I can say to make it better but I have lots of confidence in you. You will figure it out and when you do, little Dom will look for ways to force more adaptation on your part. It’s the nature of what you’re up to. Still, you will make it. Repeat that: I will make it, I will make it. We will make it…through the next 5 minutes, the next hour, the next year. You will. You will make it. Try to get there with as whole a brain as you can. Read over his nursing shoulder, listen to music that soothes you. Get out of the house if there’s any place to go. It’ll be worth the effort, maybe.

    I love you and am cheering your mommy self forward. The other parts of you are still alive and will resurrect bit by bit. In the meantime, you’re posting! Wow, that’s impressive, Lisa. Your spelling and grammar are nigh unto perfection. Take it as it comes. Escape as you are able. Know you are loved and being prayed for by mommies gone before.


    • Holy moly, four in seven years. I’m in awe. Thanks for the long distance cheerleading and sharing your hard earned wisdom. I hope you’re well. So well!

  6. Having been through the postpartum days four times now, just wanted to let you know that all those emotions are completely normal. Not sure if you’ve considered this or not, but you may be experiencing some post-partum depression. It’s quite common, I’ve had it three times now and it can be quite debilitating especially when we are fighting against all those shoulds!

    • Post-partum depression was my first thought, too. But, Lisa, you are the expert on this stuff.

      • Thanks Corrie, yeah, as I told Jenn, I’m keeping an eye on things. I don’t feel like an expert :), but I do know what to watch out for.

    • Thanks Jenn. Yes, it’s something I (and Mike) are keeping an eye on. I know I’m not immune to PND, I don’t think anyone is. I think things are not quite dire dire yet though, but we’re being vigilant. Thanks again.

  7. What lovely inspiring words from all…hope they bring some comfort to you Lisa…I did think of the post partum aspect -with just the incredible hormonal changes alone not to mention the lack of deep sleep and rest…Also that chronic neck pain? Enough on it’s own to trigger many feelings my friend. I hope some of the suggestions above bring relief…Perhaps get a massage if you can or an adjustment possibly for your neck if Mike is in town or a sitter is available. Those shoulds …send them away visually (NLP) technique in a bubble…far far away! 🙂
    Lots of love and light to you. Hugs.

    • Thanks Sandra. Yes, they have been lovely comments and I got some lovely emails offline too. And today is feeling brighter and less should burdened! Hope you’re well.

  8. http://indeliblegrace.bandcamp.com/album/the-hymn-sing-live-in-nashville?permalink

    I hope you have the bandwidth to be able to listen to this album. Especially listen to tracks five and six. I also hope you have headphones for the guys next door 🙂 … or that you can listen during a time when they are not working.

    • Thanks Carl! Will definitely track this down and have a listen. Hope you’re well!!


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