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