Joy to the me.

Dear friends,

Not me, but I aspire to feel this joyful every day.

Source: Pinterest

In case you haven’t figured this out about me by now, I’m a knuckle-down kind of gal.

I’ve been described as stoic, serious, determined, decisive, no-nonsense, persistent, and ambitious (among other less flattering adjectives).  No one has ever accused me of being fun. In fact, I’m probably known as a bit of a buzz-kill.  Best I can tell, I never get social invitations based on the bet I’ll get the par-tay started.

While in Tulsa last weekend, I had breakfast with an old friend whose good advice has been a staple in my life.  After we caught up on everything that happened in our worlds since I left town, she asked “So what are you doing to bring joy into your life?”

I nearly choked on my eggs.

“Joy?” I said, as if she had suggested I should be bringing nuclear fusion into my life.

Truth is, I still have no answer.

Okay, that’s not true. I cook and bake almost every weekend and that gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I enjoy it immensely but I’m not sure I would say I’m joyful while doing it.

Fact is, I can’t really tell you what makes me joyful. I think this might be a problem. And it probably explains why Mr. Mom suggested as nicely as he knew how not long ago that I need to “lighten up.”  Have more fun. Quit taking life so seriously.

Knowing me, after he said it, I probably thought to myself something like “Oh sure, I’ll get right on that. Yes, sirree, I’ll be sure to have more fun right after I finish solving all the problems at my office and getting our new lives arranged and helping Kate navigate the rest of her life via the college search process.”

If I am honest, I will say that I have spent my life behaving as if joy is a momentary destination rather than a daily state of mind.  I tend to spend long stretches of time planning for large joyous celebrations (such as vacations, outings, holidays) rather than looking for and enjoying tiny bursts of joy in my everyday life.

I started this blog because I realized late last year that I needed to cultivate gratitude in my life – to consciously and determinedly identify blessings and take time to savor them. It has worked in many respects. I’m successfully cultivating appreciation for life’s small blessings, while reducing frustration and discontent in the process.  But I am learning that one can be simultaneously grateful and pensive. Joy is not an automatic response to gratitude.

This I did not count on. It seems to me that gratitude is more of a cognitive response (a reasoned conclusion to an analytical process), while I consider joy to be an emotional reaction. Analysis, I’m good at. Spontaneous gaiety, not so much.

But maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe joy is a fundamental condition of the heart, as much as gratitude, as much as love, as much as hope.

So what’s a girl to do when she wants to bring joy into her life? Should I start by trying to have more fun?  (I realize joy is not the exact same thing as fun, but I can’t remember the last time I had fun and yet failed to feel joyous.) I welcome any and all suggestions for how a tightly wound worrywart can get her joy on.  That child in roller skates in the photo? That’s my new standard of joy. I may not get there every single day, but I’m betting if I work at it I can beat my recent average.

With gratitude {for friends and loved ones who ask me the hard questions},

Joan, who was terribly disappointed when her three oldest friends told her she was the Miranda Hobbes in their foursome, but couldn’t really offer a solid counter-argument


  1. IrishJenn says:

    This made me a little bit sad. I don’t have any answers for you, but I’ll tell you what I do.
    I dance. In the kitchen. While I’m making dinner. Not well, mind you. But a few bootie shakes and some bad white-girl moves here and there bring me joy. (And crack up my husband.)
    I throw the ball for my goofy dog. I can’t help but feel HIS joy when he comes running back to me, drops the sloppy thing in my hand and waits for me to throw it. Over and over and over…
    I knit or sew and then give away what I’ve made. (You need to get out your collage stuff!)
    These are little things, but they bring me joy almost every day.
    I hope you find your joy, Joan. It’s good for your soul.

  2. I would have to agree with IrishJen. I too was feeling a little on the sombre side a few years back; and that is when I decided to try blogging. It is also when I picked up my camera. And I came to the conclusion that “creating” beauty, for me through photography, was what brought me joy. In fact, this post has reminded me of just that, as my Joy as been detoured as of late. I have to admit I am surprised by your buzzkill description of yourself. Your words here on this blog paint a very different picture. Maybe blog Joan needs to be set free? : )

  3. Dana, I laughed out loud at your suggestion that Blog Joan needs to be set free. Mr. Mom has this theory that my killjoy tendencies are a conditioned response to the nature of my work and that I have trouble taking my “work hat” off (which requires decorum and PC responses at all times). I hate to think I’m generally a wet blanket — I DO have a quick sense of humor — it’s just my first response is to be reserved and dignified and calculated and responsible. I think you and Jenn are on the right track — I need to create more. There is a deep well of joy to be found within when we are engaged in any creative process and mine has been on the back shelf for a long time.

  4. maridel allinder says:

    Two ideas from a clandestine joy-monger: get out your art supplies and roll out your yoga mat.

  5. I don’t thing that Joy is a giant sized thing that when you find it you say “Oh that is joy”. Joy is in the simple little things you do and see everyday. It’s in yoga, photography, cooking, your daughter’s/son’s/spouses little habits, or lunch with a friend. Joy is hidden in all the little things you come across everyday.
    I know your past weekend in Tulsa with your friends was joyful, I read it in the words you wrote.
    I don’t think you, a vacation, a holiday can be 100% joyful. I don’t think life is meant to be 100% joyful. Joy IS found in small bursts here and there, otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate the simple joys we find in all the little things.

  6. David Hamby says:

    I had a similar moment over the break when a former colleague, who I knew only in a brief passing way, asked me very enthusiastically, “Are you happy?” after we exchanged updates on what we had been doing since the last time we’d seen each other six months before. I am still grappling with that question, even six weeks on.

  7. To slightly bend a phrase attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh, “There is no way to joy, joy is the way”. (He was writing about happiness but I’ll stand by my swap!)

    I think you nailed it when you supposed joy to be a fundamental condition of the heart. A lot like peace, joy simply IS. It exists, like a doorway. You can enter Joy or choose not to. Joy remains, waiting patiently for you to smart up and throw in.

    I also think joy evaporates in the presence of control.

    If you are not feeling your joy, (and as others pointed out -your blog is absolutely dripping with it!) perhaps you are over thinking, or trying a leetle too hard? It could be your joy is, and always has been, right there in your heart, just waiting for you to smile back.

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