Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

When the Odds Are Against You: Choose Joy!

“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”   – Isak Dinesen

Recently, I bought a BlueAir HEPA Air Purifier to counteract my IgG delayed onset allergies to mold, dust, dust mites, and cat dander.

In my mind, fresh air means an open window.  Closing all the windows and turning on an electrically powered machine to produce “clean” air feels counterintuitive.  I can’t quite believe invisible microscopic monsters trigger my slow grade reactions.  Obviously, I find it hard to acclimate to shutting windows – even in a single room.

As I observed my resistance, my thoughts drifted to Sara.  Ravaged by severe joint pain, respiratory issues, and allergic reactions due to the inflammatory disease Ankylosing Spondylitis,  Sara lived painfully but cozily 24-7 within the four walls of her apartment with nary an open window.  She explains:

“As my disease has progressed I have found myself allergic to almost everything… smells, allergens, cleaners, wool, flowers… and now I’m simply allergic to the air, hence my confinement to my home. No open windows, no going outside, no warm sunshine on a beautiful day.”

Exposure to outside air interrupted Sara’s ability to breathe and mercilessly aggravated her pain.  But, regardless of being confined to her home, Sara was quick to reassure,

“…home bound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.”

Even though she experienced constant discomfort, Sara made a conscious decision to choose joy, gratitude, and happiness and to spread these positive vibes to others in every possible way.

How do you consistently choose joy when the odds seem against you?  Sara explained it like this:

“I choose the joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal.”

Sara was always touching others with her unwavering commitment to love, community, and joy proving that profound love cannot be confined within four material walls.  Although we are strikingly different women, devoted to contrasting faith traditions, Sara mesmerized me too.

Sara died a year ago.  I mourn the loss of Sara, but I know her spirit vibrantly lives on in her words and images, reminding us to be intentional and Choose Joy!

Clearly, Sara made peoples’ hearts her intent.  Witness the power of her love in this moving video.  Hear about the impact a blog can make on other peoples’ lives.  Be sure to have some tissues by your side.


How do you choose joy?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love,  Sandra

Image:  Sara Frankl





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  1. Sara must have been a remarkably strong person. I’m not sure I would be so positive in her position. I like to think I would….

    Thanks for sharing.

    Dan Garner

  2. Sandra – thanks for the reminder from Sarah’s inspiration! Joy is a choice that we can make daily in our lives to live the kind of life we want. Having that understanding will surely bring more joy into our lives!

    • Hi Vishnu,

      It does take having that understanding, doesn’t it? Some of us are not that fortunate quite yet. May we all realize that we can choose joy!

  3. Thanks for sharing this story and video.

    We can’t be reminded enough that we decide every day how we will spend it. Choosing joy in the face of any circumstance that life brings us is the ultimate use of our human freedom. Without people like Sara who show us how it’s done, we are apt to forget this.

    I’m embarrassed to feel sorry for myself even for a minute or dwell on unimportant issues when I learn about and hear from amazing people like Sara.

    • Hi Flora,

      We’re just human, aren’t we? It’s easy to fall into feeling sorry for ourselves sometimes but having people like Sara around us and blog friends like you reminds us of the bigger picture. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. What an inspiring story, Sandra. In today’s post on my blog, I added the quote: “If you have nothing to be grateful for, check your pulse!” (Author Unknown). I choose joy by noticing every little thing and marveling at the beauty of life – literally. It is so easy, and it only takes a shift in perspective to do that. The resulting happiness is always worth it!

    Have a beautiful week ahead, dear Sandra! Hugs!

    Love, Vidya

    • Vidya,

      That made me smile (the pulse) as you always make me do! “Noticing every little thing and marveling at the beauty of life” – that’s a perfect instruction. Thank you!

  5. jean sampson

    Hi, Sandra—after that lovely and touching video, I do not have too many words. I will say that the more often we choose joy, the more of a habit joy becomes! I am increasingly aware that I am in charge of how I feel and how I relate to and respond to circumstances. The loving and beautiful on-line relationships I am blessed to have, keep me aware of that. I am in touch with such loving and joyful people!

    • Hi Jean,

      I know what you mean, I cried half the way through at least but I was inspired by Sara’s deep caring for others. I’m inspired too by your awareness that we are in charge of how we feel and relate to and respond to circumstances. It’ not easy! It does take practice. I feel so fortunate to have connected with so many loving people like you in this vast blogosphere!

  6. It isn’t always easy to choose joy, but I strive to…it simply feels better than wallowing in sadness.

    • Beverly,

      I agree, it’s not easy! It really takes practice. Sometimes we need to explore the sadness though and see what’s there. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. What an inspirational story. Thank you so much for sharing this, Sandra. Stories like this are such a wake-up call. It’s just too easy to slip into self-pity mode when others have and continue to fearlessly face and positively embrace serious challenges like this. Thank you!

    • Hi Amanda,

      You’re welcome! I actually thought of you while writing this post as I felt you would really resonate the strength of Sara’s faith, which was truly the foundation of her ability to choose joy.

  8. Lynn Fang

    Hi Sandra,
    Thank you for that lovely reminder to choose joy. While it is my intent to always choose joy and gratitude, somehow I still manage to feel sorry for myself, as though I don’t have enough. Hearing about stories like yours and Sara’s really help to put things in perspective.

    • How wonderful to see you, Lynn! You’ve made a good point. I think we need self-compassion too. It doesn’t help to suppress our emotions, but we can acknowledge them, appreciate our suffering, and still do our best to practice joy. I really find it to be a practice that doesn’t always come easily!

  9. Truly inspirational post Sandra!

    Sara’s story moved me indeed, and there is so much to learn from her and the way she lived. She chose joy knowing that she is fighting a battle that might have no hope, yet she chose hope and joy for herself, her kids, her family, her friends, and for so many others connected to her. Her story is sure to live on even after she’s gone and will keep motivating all of us to move in life.

    For me, I chose joy in the smallest of things – just the fact that I am alive is a matter of joy for me. To be able to see my kids and be there for them, to be able to do things I am doing…the list is endless. It all depends on how you look at joy and how grateful you feel 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Hi Harleena,

      It is amazing how Sara chose joy even though there seemed to be little “hope” in her situation. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and I agree it will keep inspiring us for time to come!

  10. Dear Sandra,
    I so love this post! Its inspiring on so many levels.
    Its amazing how one woman, despite her physical condition has achieved so much…and most of all never gave up. wow! She is inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing the Joy here Sandra.
    As to how I choose joy….oh I have a living breathing little angel running around in my house who literally doesn’t let me forget Joy at all. Her and butterflies just get me all happity happy 🙂
    Lots of love,

    • Hi Zeenat,

      I’m so happy you loved this post! Maybe we could duplicate your angel and sending her all around the world to all the people who need a dose of joy and butterflies! It makes me happy to know you are so happy!

  11. This was such a touching story. Sarah chose joy. Even in the midst of the most difficult moments of her life she went deep within and the wellspring of joy.

    “Joy is not in things; it is in us” –Richard Wagner

    In the English language we often use the words “happy” and “joy” synonymously. But in the Greek language, these two words can represent two very different thoughts. Happiness was a word typically used to express feelings, which were a result of external circumstances. However, the word joy was used to express the idea of inner contentment in spite of external circumstances.

    “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” — Henri Nouwen

    • Hi timethief,

      That’s a fascinating point about the difference being happiness and joy in the Greek language! Sara definitely chose joy although happiness may not have always come her way. Thank you for these wonderful additions to the conversation. They make it even more meaningful.

  12. Laura (Frankl) Pedersen

    Thank you for continuing to honor Sara and her teachings! Blessings to you always!!

    • It’s truly my honor! Sara continues to bless all of us. Thank you for connecting and for all you do to continue Sara’s presence in the world.

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