The face of joy

Surveying the audience right before I start my talk, I look around the room, stop and pause to make eye contact for the standard 2 seconds, then continue roving. Eyes, jowls and body posturing reveal impatience, as though a fire is breaking out at the office and they know it’s going to be a full-blown crisis. Some can barely keep their lids from dropping and a few have the vacant, I really-need-help expressions. And those with joy—the eager, I’m so-glad-I’m-here and I’m going to eek every bit of wisdom out of this room and conquer the world are about 1% of the group. Those are rare gems that shine so bright, it’s as though the very lights from above can’t keep from focusing their attention upon them.

As my sister said this morning, “Everyone is looking for more happiness and joy.” She had a good point. Does anyone ever say: “I’m full up with happiness. I don’t need anymore?” Chocolate and push-ups, yes, each eventually has a limit, but joy? Nope. I haven’t heard that one lately.

Nice philosophy but…

How do you find joy when you come home from a business trip and find the house has been emptied by your husband, who also took your two-year-old son? What does joy look like when you lose everything due to poor financial decisions or someone else’s actions? Your parents split up after 60 years together? Your father-in-law staggers one day and within the year is dead from brain cancer? Your daughter awakes to find her three chickens have been gutted by a chicken hawk, the entrails splayed out for all to see? (good morning!)

Okay, so that last one was so horrible, but it’s also funny in hindsight (my daughter was ten). It was addressed, as many one-off challenges can be, but have you noticed that quite often, joy (or lack thereof) isn’t found in one, singular event, but the combination of many? The “little things” are small pebbles of badness that add up to an Everest-like challenges; the stress-induced hair loss, depression-related weight gain or worse, divorce and heart-attacks might have been prevented if the pebbles were removed along the way.

Get up, get focused and stay with it

This may come as a shock to those who know me, but I’ve gone into the bedroom, closed the door, pulled the covers over and closed my eyes as much as the next person. In other words, I “go-fetal” for a time. You think fired news anchors act like nothing happens the first day they don’t have a job? Nope–I bet they go fetal just like the rest of us.

Breaking the pity party involves forced activity, stepping one pace away from sadness and depression towards a better tomorrow. My mantra is that “No one’s going to fix me, so I have to do it myself.”

If you find you can’t get out of bed, start by praying. When I’m feeling backed into a corner, the prayer is simple: all I have to give is a smile, so please Lord, let the recipient of that smile need it as much as I need to give it. The alarm goes off at 5:45 am. Instead of sleeping for another ten, I use that time to pray.

Today, both prayer and action were answered by the large cross-eyed checker with the expansive, clear face mask. We were talking about the holidays when another checker (male, nice looking) mentioned that a woman had given him a gift for being so helpful, and in return, he’d given her a large bag of fresh raspberries (this kind of thing happens in Idaho). My checker volunteered that her birthday is December 16th (to no one in particular) and it occurred to me how much easier it might before a customer to give thanks to a nice looking, single (albeit 50-something) man than a much younger woman of large stature who was just as pleasant. Imagine her surprise if someone put a little joy in her life on that day just because? Secondarily, would I have known had we not been chit-chatting about nothing more than holidays?

Don’t focus on where you began, but where you are going

I recently listened to a talk and it had a great sentence I made sure to write down, then went back and listened to the entire thing (12 min).

“Let me share two areas of encouragement for those facing difficult starting circumstances. First, focus on where you are headed and not where you began. It would be wrong to ignore your circumstances—they are real and need to be addressed. But over focusing on a difficult starting point can cause it to define you and even constrain your ability to choose.”

What a wonderful reminder–don’t get caught up in what brought you to this point, but concentrate on going forward, learning from mistakes while putting good energy towards your goal.

Thinking back to this morning at the checkout counter. Had I not made the choice to be pray, be an active conduit for good energy, I’d never had the conversation. I recall smiling a bit larger at her because I now know two things I didn’t when I woke: her name (Heidi) and her birthday. Those two facts brought joy to my life, proving that little things can also be pebbles of goodness. It’s now my job to stack one upon another and keep the momentum going.