By Mary Cucarola – 1/1/2022 “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” ~Karl Barth Happy New Year! I scanned my Franklin planner for 2021 to look for the positives and negatives of the year, assuming the negatives would win. But that wasn’t the case at all. I had far more positive experiences in 2021 than negative ones, despite what the news screams at us day after day. In fact, my positives beat my negatives by 2 to 1. I concluded I needed to change my perspective (and watch less news). I saw a post on Instagram about finding alternatives to New Year’s resolutions. It suggested to come up with a word of the year for 2022. I really liked this idea and thought about the word joy for my word choice for a couple of days. I need more joy, fun, and laughter in my life and want to stay fully conscious of the present moment, being free of the noise from my internal dialogue – the crazy committee in my head. I have a set of wisdom cards I received years ago as a gift from my sister, so I decided to draw one from the deck to see what “wisdom” I might get for the year. Guess what I drew? I drew the word “Joy”. That’s the way the Universe works, you know. Off to a good start for 2022. My Wisdom Card I did some major upgrades to my home in 2021, planning them during the Covid isolation of 2020. I added a stone gas fireplace upstairs in the living room, with floating wood shelves along the sides to match the mantle, and bought beautiful dark blue matte leather furniture and a white chair that reclines but looks like an accent chair. I love the change and it lifts me up every morning when I wake up to go out into the living room. I love sitting in the recliner, looking out the window at my deck, drinking my coffee, while my old, white-faced, golden retriever lays next to me and the cozy fireplace. It makes me feel grateful and blessed for what I have, instead of what I don’t’ have. I workout three times a week at a small gym with a personal trainer. To say I like working out would be a stretch because I dislike gyms and gym rat talk immensely. I know exercise is good for me, so I do it begrudgingly. But it’s on my positive experience list in 2021. Why? Because of the people. I have a good time with my trainer and his girlfriend, who is also a personal trainer. We laugh and swear a lot and talk about everything under the sun. I get good tips on fantasy football, golf swings, music, and sticking to my macros (ugh). They support me not only in my physical health but nurture my happiness, too. There aren’t enough words to write about the positive experiences my teenage granddaughter brings me. She exudes fresh, creative energy constantly, and I love it. For her gift to me this Christmas, she went to Build-a-Bear and created a customized bear with an audio recording in its paw. The recording is an actual voicemail left by my son, Cody, before he died that says “I love you. Hope you are doing okay.” When I press the paw, I can hear my son’s voice. It’s the best gift I have ever received from her, other than the day she came into my life. Each meaningful message I receive from my scholarship recipients and family program members touches me deeply. I love reading the applicant’s written answer on how the scholarship will impact their recovery. My work gives me purpose and at the same time keeps me humble. I relate to everything they are going through – the relapses, disappointments, frustrations, losses, wins – because I’ve been through them, too. I am so proud of Cody’s Fresh Start and will continue on with it because I love it, and it keeps my heart open. I consider it the ultimate gift from my son. I am choosing the word joy as my word of the year for 2022, consciously seeking out what brings me joy, nurtures my happiness, fills me with creative energy, and opens my heart and eyes. It has been said that laughter is contagious, but as it turns out so is joy. In fact, I think joy is as contagious as Covid, if you have the right perspective. Changing perspective is as simple as choosing a word of the year for 2022. Mary Cucarola – 1/1/2022

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