Last month, Robin Roberts celebrated her 20th anniversary on "Good Morning America" with a slew of surprises and by sharing advice to her younger self, who nearly missed out on the opportunity to achieve this milestone.
The "GMA" co-anchor also released her new book, "Brighter by the Day: Waking Up to New Hopes and Dreams," which serves as "a guide to instilling hope and optimism into readers' lives, infusing their days with positivity and encouragement."
Within those pages, Roberts shares some wisdom imparted by her late mother, Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts, that encourage finding joy on Mother's Day and beyond that will resonate with many during challenging and ever-changing times.
Read an excerpt below and get a copy of the book here.
My mother, who was full of mommy-isms I’ve loved sharing over the years, had her own phrase for a joy that acknowledges sadness. She called it “happy sorrow.” In 2004, when my beloved father passed, our family lost its rock—and my mother lost her husband of more than fifty-five years. I’ll always be grateful that some of my GMA colleagues, among them Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson, and Tony Perkins, made the trip to Mississippi to attend my father’s homegoing service, held at the Triangle Chapel on Keesler Air Force Base. It was such a moving tribute to my dad’s life and heroism. Afterward, with palpable sadness in the air, my mom and the rest of us filed out behind the casket as the choir sang the old gospel song “When We All Get to Heaven.” What happened next still makes me smile.
Mom faced the choir, thrust her arms high in the air, and began directing. “No, no!” her voice rang out as I looked at her sideways. “More upbeat!” And just like that, the singers quickened their tempo, turning a somber refrain into one of jubilation.
Later, Mom told us why she’d done that. “Yes, your father is gone, and we hurt,” she said. “But think of the joy he brought us. Think of all our wonderful memories of him. You can have sad sorrow or happy sorrow”—and she chose the latter. She did so not just on that day, but over and over throughout her years.
That idea has stayed with me. I even have a little placard that says happy sorrow. Every time I glance at it, I chuckle at the thought of Mom directing that choir, and I also remember her wisdom. In our times now, none of us are walking around with a plastic grin, and we shouldn’t be. No one’s pretending all is well in a world gone topsy-turvy. There’s uncertainty. There’s vulnerability. There’s sadness at times. And yet even when sorrow pays us a visit, it can take a seat alongside joy. The two can coexist.
In fact, joy and sorrow are interconnected. We can appreciate one only because we’ve experienced the other. When I think of my parents, both of whom have now gone home, I still well up. The loss pains me. But I choose not to dwell in that place, but rather to relish the good. I honor their legacies and give thanks for the many decades I had with them. Tears of joy are exactly that—grief and rejoicing in unison.
While I’m constantly striving for uppercase Joy, I also embrace its lowercase cousin. Happiness—the sheer bliss of, say, accomplishing a goal, or even just the tiniest of thrills—can bring us much-needed levity and laughter. We need to play, to lighten up and have some fun. Just seeing a colorful paper beach umbrella in a cold beverage makes me smile. That’s such a small delight, but it instantly lifts my mood. Music is another source of happiness. I grew up with my mother at the piano, with all of us gathered around singing. I still love it when my sister Dorothy visits and takes to the ivories the way Momma did, belting our mother’s favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” And to this day, when I hear a favorite tune, it transports me. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was my theme song during cancer treatment—and, boy, did its lyrics get me through. When “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire comes on the radio, I’ve been known to break out dancing. I enjoy contemporary artists—Beyoncé, Adele, Taylor Swift, John Legend, the list goes on—but nothing gets my foot tapping like some old-school Motown and R&B. And Stevie Wonder? Any song by the musical master snaps me right out of a funk.
Our daily pleasures, however momentary, are cause for celebration. When happy feelings rise and recede—when our circumstances waver—joy is what anchors the soul.
Excerpted from the book "Brighter by the Day: Waking Up to New Hopes and Dreams" by Robin Roberts with Michelle Burford. Copyright © 2022 by Robin Roberts. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.