There are times in our lives when we need to reorganize our priorities to rediscover the fundamentals of happiness. Often, we don’t understand what causes our sadness or lack of enthusiasm.

The pandemic threw most of us off track. We were not able to freely visit those friends and family we usually see. We resided in a bubble and accepted our fate. Most of us wrapped ourselves in our own little cocoons and quietly coped with our fear and loneliness. It was almost selfish to complain because, for many others, their worlds were utterly shattered. So, I strived to keep smiling, praying, and writing words of encouragement.

Even when the sorrow would be overwhelming, I busied myself with a project and buried all my emotions deep within.

However, there was a constant longing to fly from my cocoon and see the world and those I love. Especially the desire to reunite with my children.

Recently, on a sunny July afternoon in Colorado, I finally laid eyes on my son, whom I had not seen in 19 months. When he walked toward me, the grief that I had embedded within my heart rose to the surface. I don’t think I will ever forget such an embrace. I spent a few precious times in those long months with my two girls and grandchild, which was indeed incredible, but when I was finally able to see all my children together, the delight was overwhelming.

My family then traveled to the wild blue yonder of Wyoming for a weeklong vacation on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere is where I uncovered pure joy.

There was no glitz or glamour to obscure wide-open spaces with clear azure skies and where one acknowledges, with certainty, Mother Nature is in charge. A vast land where sounds of the city are replaced with singing birds and chirping crickets. The breeze rustles through the trees, fish jump in the ponds, and laughter becomes the only music needed.

Open ranges, endless expanses of uncluttered earth and the grand canopy of the sky seemed to expand the happiness in my soul. It was as if there was no limit to how much love I could feel for this group of folks.

Family is the root of happiness.

When we traveled for a day to the Black Hills of South Dakota and to the iconic Mount Rushmore, I stood in awe as I gazed up at the faces so expertly carved into the mountain. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln viewing the vastness surrounding them. It was as if they were still in charge and keeping watchful eyes on America. All 50 state flags blew in the warm wind below them. The whole scene reminded us that we are one nation driven by liberty and the sacrifices of those who served us well.

Freedom is the heart of peace.

A 120-year-old general store is the centerpiece of Aladdin, Wyoming. It houses the post office, a bar, a substantial black safe, animal skins, and everything from clothes to candy bars. You step back in time when you walk through the screen doors off the front porch. The cowgirl in me immediately looked for my horse to see if she was safely tied to the hitching post.

We strolled through this preserved operational store and couldn’t possibly have seen all the offerings. However, my children beckoned me to examine the candy and bars they found displayed neatly on an old wooden shelf.

In yellow boxes were stacks of Kimble’s Bars made of peanuts, oats, and peanut butter — hand made daily in LaGrange, Georgia. What?! My adopted hometown was represented in far out yonder, Aladdin, Wyoming! I took a picture and told my children, “My pals from LaGrange will love this!”

Friends and warm reminders of home are the icings on the cake of life.

While watching the clouds move in the sky, the deer jump through the grass, the sun climb to warm the earth, and the wild turkeys gather in their flock, I was mesmerized by the beauty of God’s world. None of us look at the blue sky, or trees, or the moon and stars enough. When we do, we realize just how small we really are and how precious our planet is. If we study the land God gave us to live on, we will recognize quickly just how thankful we should be for it all.

The family, the friends, the freedom, the connections, and the beauty are ours because God willed it so. It is through God that we find the fundamentals of happiness.

My priorities are back, and my sadness is gone.

Lynn Gendusa of Roswell is the author of “It’s All Write with Me! Essays from my heart.” She can be reached at www.lynngendusa.com.

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