You can’t take the treadmill to Joyland.

Dear friends,

Wednesday night as Mr. Mom and I were about to drift off to sleep, he squeezed my hand and whispered “Did you find your joy today?”

We both snickered, and I admitted that given a taxing day at the office, I hadn’t even looked for it.  We talked about the thoughtful comments made by readers and the elements of your suggestions that resonated with us.  Finally he said, “Sometimes I think you have to stop thinking and start doing.”

His words echoed many of your comments, which suggested I get busy — responding to my creative urges, rolling out the yoga mat, or even cutting loose and dancing in the kitchen. Simple things, all. But incredibly uplifting things, too, if one does them consciously.

But let me tell you — the conscious part is not so simple.

Haven’t you ever felt like you were going through your days in a daze? Before we moved and I was still commuting two hours a day, there were times when the entire drive would go by and I’d have no memory of it. It might sound like a convenient mental trick, but there were instances when I’d pull into my driveway and “wake up” without any memory of the traffic or the landmarks (or, frankly, of any brain activity) of the prior 60 minutes. The feeling frightened me so badly that sometimes I would feel myself shaking as I pulled into the garage. And it convinced me I had to get rid of the commute.

But getting rid of the commute doesn’t mean I got off the treadmill. And by treadmill, I mean the automatic-pilot state, the sleepwalking trap that all adults but especially working mothers can fall into. I’ve tried very hard since I “remade” my life 10 months ago to stay off the treadmill.  But the truth is that some days I’m more conscious than others. (We humans are all a damn DIY project, aren’t we?)

When I launched this site on a whim in January, I chose the tagline “daily meditations of a mindful mother” for two reasons. First, because I needed a written promise to motivate me to blog daily (and blogging is my chosen method for cultivating gratitude). And, second, because I aspire to be mindful (though I so often am not). Thus, the daily part and the mindful part were at the center of my New Year’s resolution. And yet here I am, in early February, in a self-inflicted stupor wherein I whine publicly about how “I have no joy!”

So, I’m going to stop whining and start doing.  Do I know what my doing will consist of? Heck no! But whatever I do, I’m going to follow this advice:

As you walk, cultivate a sense of ease. There’s no hurry to get anywhere, no destination to reach. You’re just walking. This is a good instruction: just walk. As you walk, as you let go of the desire to get somewhere, you begin to sense the joy in simply walking, in being in the present moment. You begin to comprehend the preciousness of each step. It’s an extraordinarily precious experience to walk on this earth. —Peter Doobinin (from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review)

Don’t worry . . . I’ll report in and let you know how it goes. Because you can bet when I find some joy I’m going to spread it around.

With gratitude {for a husband who cares enough to ask about his wife’s joy and friends with much-needed perspective},

Joan, who wrote this late Thursday night in a hotel room while cultivating a little TGIF-joy at the thought of going home for the weekend



  1. The “phantom drive” phenomenon. Quite disconcerting.

    My habit of postponing gratification until after I got all my work done and all my problems solved morphed over the years into a sturdy wall standing between me and the possibility I might enjoy my own life.

    I finally escaped at least some of my self inflicted burdening after realizing I could not “solve” the problems of/for other people, even other people I loved dearly. That simply could not be my work to do. If any solutions were available, the work of discovery had to be theirs.

    I realized one of the best gifts I could give my own children would be the example of attempting to mindfully celebrate all of my life. Ups, downs, and in betweens, the events in my life were and still are all enhanced to whatever extent I can release my fantasy of exercising control over them. Nothing was or is either absolutely perfect OR totally ruined – the only two settings previously functioning on my dial.

    The fact I spent way too long writing/editing this comment serves as a reminder I do have more work to do – on myself. But…. I’ll have a second cup of coffee and enjoy staring out the window first.

  2. I have been exercising regularly for months now and my mantra for exercise is simply “do something every day”. It isn’t important if that something is long or short, easy or hard, all that matters is that I do something instead of nothing. Reading about your quest for joy strikes me to be a challenge of the same shape. I would suggest that if you make it your goal to simply “do something, any little thing” that brings you joy each day, you will find it.

  3. The author. says:

    Deb — “My habit of postpoining . . .” Truly wise words. Been there, done that, trying to stop it.

    Phoo-D — I’ve been a sloth. Probably why my joy has been stunted. I like your “do something every day” for both joy hunting AND exercise. Doing a little meditation here on your words and hoping it’ll jump-start my efforts.

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