I googled the word stress. “Stress is a measure of force per unit area within a body, tension is an external stress tending to pull an object apart.” Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s definitely why my shoulder muscles feel like they’re being pulled up into my neck.

Those of us who have mastered the art of hiding stress because we want to be easygoing and laid back ultimately pay the price internally. I wonder if those folks who rant and rave and throw mini-temper tantrums feel better afterward? I have to believe they don’t because fits like that take a lot of energy.

Although I haven’t figured out how to stop stress from attacking my body parts, I do practice finding moments of joy – as I like to call them – that keep me from losing my mind and screaming like a mad woman when life gets overwhelming.

I haven’t always been easygoing, and I remember the turning point in my life when I decided it was up to me to find the balance in life. I was a young, single parent of two, struggling to meet the monthly bills and carrying around a chip on my shoulder, bigger than a boulder.

My mom was a character-builder, although I’m sure she never knew it. She’d come by and check on us, often bringing a care package of food or a new outfit for the girls. Spending most of my time and energy feeling sorry for myself, I overlooked the things in life that seemed trivial, when actually they could have made the big picture so much brighter.

During a crying jag, I told mom how unhappy and miserable I was even though I knew she wasn’t very tolerant of pity parties or whining. Mom wasn’t much for lectures, shouting matches or sympathy, unless the situation was out of your control, like if you were sick or hurt.

I don’t remember ever hearing her raise her voice or even look mad, although I bet her shoulder muscles hurt, too. As she was heading out the door to leave me to waller in my own miseries she said, “No one is happy all the time. It’s up to you to find moments of joy – the more you capture those moments, the better off you’ll be.”

I eventually learned how to heed her advice, and it didn’t take long to realize laughing felt a lot better than crying, and I became an expert at finding moments of joy.

Just today, I savored the smell of the coming rain as I drove with my windows down.

Guess there must be something to the old saying of “taking the time to stop and smell the roses,” although trying to pick them can be a little tough with shoulder muscles that are wound too tight.

Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at sandydownhome@hotmail.com