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Warmest regards: Not quite as joyful after accident

Published May 31. 2019 08:04PM

By Pattie Mihalik

Is happiness the same as joy?

When I read that question in the Can You Hear the Birds Sing blog, I was a bit confused.

If you are happy, aren’t you also joyful?

Blog writer J. Brink says happiness and joy are definitely not the same. They are first cousins, but not identical twins, he maintains.

These are his thoughts on the blog:

“Happiness does not lead to joy, but joy can make us feel happy.

“Happiness is rooted in circumstances. Good things, I am happy. Bad things, I am not happy.

“Joy is deeper than this. Joy is a sense of well-being that transcends circumstances.”

That blog made me pause to consider my own life. I know I am a happy person. I also know I have episodes of pure joy in daily life.

When I get up each day and go for my morning gratitude walk, I am more than happy and am frequently joyful.

Often, it’s the small wonders of life that make me feel that joy. The antics of a few dozen ibises digging for insects in the yard can make me laugh out loud. So can the persistent drumming of the neighborhood woodpecker.

On occasion I feel such joy during my walk that I start to skip. In the interest of honesty, I have to admit I don’t skip for long because at this age my body might temporarily act like a kid. But not for long.

The blog writer who wrote about the difference between happiness and joy concluded that most of us have some happiness from time to time. “But there are many that never experience joy because their lives are too tied to circumstances,” he said.

While I believe I am both happy and joyful, I agreed that circumstances can diminish my joy.

That’s certainly what happened this week.

A few days ago my husband was sprinting on his bike, knowing he was close to home. When he rounded a corner, he collided with a van. David says the accident was his fault. He saw the van as he rounded the corner but couldn’t stop in time.

The driver of the van said he didn’t see David at all and didn’t know his car hit David until he heard him yell.

When a bike and a car collide, the biker doesn’t stand much chance to escape injury.

The good news is he survived.

The bad news is he is seriously banged up. Just about every part of his body sustained deep cuts from the macadam.

The emergency room doctor says David’s clavicle is broken and the muscles and tendons in his rotator cuff are seriously sprained. In addition, something is moving around in his back, and his knee might have a piece out of it.

We have an appointment Monday with an orthopedic surgeon to assess David’s prognosis.

Although he heals quickly, from all indications David is going to be laid up for a long time. He is still in considerable pain, and I fear the orthopedic doctor will have more bad news.

At the very least, our quality of life is greatly diminished. We can no longer do any of the activities we love. Since he can’t move his arm without severe pain, we know it’s going to be a long time before we can resume the outdoor life we both love.

No biking. No kayaking. No dancing. It’s going to be a long, tough recovery and adjustment for both of us.

So, could I stay joyful through all that?

It’s impossible to be joyful when your partner is in so much pain.

We are both grateful that he didn’t die. We both have the fortitude to get through what’s ahead, but we wouldn’t be human if it didn’t affect our happiness.

Biking has always been David’s passion. For him, a day without biking is a day without sunshine.

You can tell we are both going to have to do some attitude adjustment.

“I guess we’ll be playing cards instead of our usual activities,” he lamented.

Pinochle, anyone?

But I know from experience that no matter what, happiness is rekindled and joy comes back, at least in snatches.

The key, I believe, is keeping a strong sense of gratitude for what we do have and for what we can do.

Life is like a seesaw. It can’t always be up.

We can’t always be joyful. But we can always be thankful.

While I might not be as joyful as I was before the accident, I am even more thankful.

I am thankful for each and every day. And especially thankful that David survived the biking accident. It could have been a lot worse.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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