My Facebook feed lately has been full of helpful advice–for twenty-somethings (get off Facebook), for women in the work place (when aren’t most women in a work place?), for parents (stop reading parenting advice and read storybooks to your kid!), and so forth. Writers, particularly those not yet published, are also the recipients of tsunamis well intended advice.
The assumption must be that perfecting the art of the hotshot-twenty something, respected female employee, effective parent, or published author will make us… what? Probably not wealthy, but rather, happy. All of those lists and sermons are intended to boost us in the direction of happy, rewarding lives.
Hokay. So maybe we could boil off the chiding, scolding, Charlie-Brown-in-second-grade toned recipes for how to go on and content ourselves with the following:
Pay close attention to what brings you joy. Make as much room for it in your life as you can. Hang it on every wall of your personal gallery, keep it on your playlist, sprinkle it on your every meal, and walk in that direction as often as you can. This bumper sticker has cut through more Gordian knots for me, and lifted more fogs, than all the ten things, twenty suggestions, and fifty ways I’ve come across.
If I get into a thicket and nothing is making me happy (this went on for about fifteen years at one point), then I think back to the last time I felt happy. The last time I was engaged in something I did not want to stop doing, the last time I resented having to eat, sleep and drink because it forced me to pause in pursuit of my passion.
This is why I have a horse again–because I am happy on the back of a fine steed, even if I look and feel like a sack of potatoes (which I assuredly do). This is why I keep good books around. This is why I have cats and dogs, why I go for long road trips and plant flowers all over my yard. This is why I occasionally get on You Tube and go on Dave Brubeck or Johannes Brahms listening binges.
These pursuits bring me joy, which is another way of saying, they affirm for me who I am.
You can’t fake joy. It’s highly personal, and when it grabs you, every particle of you is illuminated by it. When you’re seized by joy, that’s the real you, and it feels good to be yourself and it feels good to be around you.
In our headlong rush to be productive, organized, worthy, contributing, respectable people, we get a lot done, we give a lot to others–and we often entirely lose ourselves without even realizing it. When I get lost like that–a human oscillator, bouncing between the lawyer job and the writing job, for example–it’s time to look again for where my joy is, because my most worthy, authentic, energetic and loving self will be there too.
Have you come across some joyful people? What would bring you joy now?
To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Once Upon Tartan, a book that was a tremendous joy to write.
Joy is spending time with my granddaughter or traveling with my son.
And–why does it seem to work this way?–rambling around with you is probably their joy too!
The most joyful people I know are my great niece and nephew – my sister’s grandchildren. They are both very sweet, have beautiful manners, and are wonderful company when I come to visit. What would bring me joy now would be to take another trip to California to see my family.
I hope the trip comes your way, Barbara. My parents live in San Diego, and long about January, all sorts of distant friends have turned up for a visit. Something about the sunshine alone seems to make a trip to SoCal a dose of happy for many.
Maybe it’s the Vitamin D, or maybe it’s what never having to fight the elements can do. It’s a notably happy place, isn’t it?
Live music, almost any style from blues to Beethoven. I’m not much of a performer, but knowing how much beauty humans are capable of makes me happy.
Anne, I’m fortunate to live where the Maryland Symphony has its home venue, and about once a year, I get out for a classical concert. EVERY time, I say to myself, “That was delightful! I’m not letting another year go by before I hear more live music.”
And then a year goes by, and if my ex husband didn’t goose me into going to a concert…
Shame on me! In my defense, I can say I’ve been playing the piano a little lately.
Abraham Lincoln said, “You’ll only be as happy as you make up your mind to be.” I agree you can only find joy within yourself. It is a long journey and while I am not always joyous I try to be grateful for what I have. Contentment can lead to joy.
And Lincoln knew a lot of sorrow and negativity, too. I’m grateful for contentment, but I’m also realizing (are my parents aging or what?) that the window during which I can ride a rose, stay up late writing, or otherwise indulge my whims is closing, and I want as much self-realization in that window as I can muster.
Maybe that will make for a contented old(er) are?
My DH brought that quote to my attention years ago, Martha. It’s easy to forget that much of my happiness is within my own control, our my reactions. Think I’ll repost that quote on my computer and at work. Thanks.
Thank you for this sentence: “When you’re seized by joy, that’s the real you, and it feels good to be yourself and it feels good to be around you.” I’ve never thought of it this way but it is so true. I need to remember and act on it more. Thanks again.
Kathy, there I was, single parenting, lawyering, working on a master’s degree, getting my credentials as a mediator, exercising, blah, blah, blah, but I was emotionally hydroplaning. I laid waste my powers on the “to do” list, and one day, it all felt… like a big So What?
Somebody at that point asked what made me happy, and it surely wasn’t much of what I was spending my energy on. I had fashioned a wonderful life–for somebody else.
I stopped the compulsive exercise that was getting my nowhere and started horse shopping.
Boy, there are so many things that bring me joy. As someone who has a rather somber (depressed) personality, I learned to seek joy where ever I could find at an early age.
Sometimes I find it in people. There are some people whose personalities are so bright and optimistic that they are a joy to be around. I really believe that they were gifted from God with these natures.
But joy can be found in so many places: sitting on the pourch with a glass of ice tea; listening to the birds chirp; reading a good book.
The list is endless, but the key is that you have to want to find it.
Yes! You have to give yourself permission to hunt it up, and sit still long enough that the memory of the experience, or the experience itself, of joy can re-surface.
That’s hard to do at many points in life, especially when we’re being told to arrive at the office early and leave late, learn the tech skills, network, read the self-help and bestselling literary fiction, on and on.
Throw in a few kids, a spouse, some Aged P’s… pretty soon, the to do list is your tyrant and the tombstone of your happiness.
True, but that is when you need joy the most….it’s not always easy.
You really do not see alot of joyful people anymore. I get more joy from my work. I’m an LPN and when I get to work I stop by all the residents in the nursing home and spend a little time with them. My step mom is also a joy to be around. She tries to make everyone happy and decorated for every little holiday. Thanks for the post and giveaway.
Kimmyl, the person I want most to see joyful is the gal in the mirror. I think joy, like anger, fear, prejudice, and a lot of other strong emotions, is contagious. When you top up your happy tank before work, every patient you work with benefits, as do you.
Pretty smart on your part!
It’s sometimes surprising where you meet joyful people. If we could eliminate assumptions from our repertoire of reactions, we might see it more. I’ve started writing down those instances like the old man who trudged across the parking lot just to give me an almost toothless smile, wish me good morning and offer to sweep my side of the parking lot. Not for me to give him anything but purely to make himself feel busy, worthwhile, happy. Sweet.
I serve joy to children in the form of sugary snow balls and joy is what I feel when I see their faces light up and their lips mouth, “Spiderman” or “Spongebob”, pigtails waggling. Or when a little girl stares into her first cup of pickle pops after the winter and says,, “I’ve missed you.” It’s not politically or fiscally important; doesn’t promise to make them smarter or me rich, but it does engender moments of spontaneous enthusiasm for children as well as adults. It helps me to remember that joy at the end of the season like now, when I’m tired and ready for off-season.
And Grace Burrowes books give me so much joy, I think about making it my life’s work, lol. Only half kidding. You’d have to be even more prolific than you are to make that happen. But if you’d write less I might write more. Keep them coming along with the Grace-isms.
(I do love a good long drive as well.)
I never fail to marvel at what pleasure some people can take in a book mark. A root beer snow cone, that I get, but… a book mark?
My grandmother owned a candy store for the last twenty years of her life. She was happy, and the people coming to her store were happy. You’re the Candy Store lady of your little corner of the world, Livia, and many a mom and dad has been happy you do what you do.
the things that bring us joy seem to be the things outside out everyday lives – somewhere we can go and be our real selves – not the worker bee, or aquantinace, neighbor. My joy would be traveling – the good old-fashioned road trip traveling.
Vickie, I think you comment points to the distinction between what are called relationship identities–daughter, neighbor, manager, church lady–and the independent identities.
Even on that dessert island, with no computer, without even a pencil and paper, I’d be thinking up stories. That’s ME, and when I hit the road, more of the “that’s ME” identities can come to the fore, and the relational identities can quiet down.
I love spending time with my son. He is at the age where everything is interesting and he wants to know why, how, where, etc. It’s an adventure that I am loving and can’t wait to see what happens next.
Scientists really do have a lot of fun, regardless of their age. Life is their laboratory.
Joy would be in my children’s continued success in life.
Fortunately, my mom agrees with you! (And so do I.)
I’m with many joyful people every week from my church community. And in my family, my grandchildren are a constant source of joy.
Then you’re in the right congregation. One of the things I liked most about my little Mennonite congregation was that the meeting place itself was LIGHT, unpretentious, and cozy. Not a somber place to meet at all, and that helped.
A couple of years ago I got very sick and it took the doctors a very long time to figure out what was wrong with me. it turned out to be two autoimmune diseases. I was sick for so long I really felt like I wasn’t going to make it through this. I feel to this day that a part of why this happened is because I couldn’t say the word “NO”. I was the perfect employee, wife, mother, friend, family member and anything else you can think of. I didn’t have much joy, I was to tired. Now “NO” is a word I use very often. Yes there are still things that I have to do that I don’t want to, but nothing like before. The only people I push myself for now is my family, because they mean everything to me. There are limits to that too of course. My joy happens a lot more often now days and I am very thankful for it, because I lived with no joy while I was sick for so long (well not much). I will never be 100%, but I am much better. That is very joyful for me!!
Mary, I’m very glad the docs figured your situation out, and glad you found some medicine to keep you healthy. We’re under a lot of pressure to say yes, but it’s more important to say yes to adequate rest, some self-appreciation, and a dose of spare time.
Good for you!
I am in the honeymoon phase of my new job as a culinary instructor, and I have so much joy I have to force myself not to giggle out loud. All the time. I am surrounded by people who share my passion, and I get to share mine with others.
I get to talk about what makes me happy all day long.
My son and I went through some rough stuff for many years. And while I tried so hard to be the “happy mom”, I’m sure I missed the mark often. Even though the young man is my ultimate joy, and I love being his mother, my personal joy was on the back burner for a long time. Years. The funny thing is, I don’t remember putting it there. It just sort of happened. Finding my personal joy again has been the most amazing blessing. I believe it’s more precious to me because I had to wait so long for it. I think I will hold it very close to my heart.
I don’t think this is the honeymoon, Tracey, I think is what happens when you’ve been in the wilderness for years, and you fight your way home. You gained insights and gifts and emotional stamina during those tough years, and they’re yours to keep. You will never be that bewildered again.
And I believe that your joy goes into what you create, as if it were a spice that sneaked onto the list of ingredients for every recipe.
Joyful people in my life range from a couple of my “nephews” to a couple of my farmers’ market customers, the local priest, and a dear lady of 80+ years who has lots of pain in her hands and difficulty walking even with a cane yet exudes such joy and love and wonder that it is impossible to see clouds around her.
As for what brings me joy: time spent with joyful people, of course, but also good music (I’m loving sweet standards and mellow jazz lately), colorful flowers, picking fresh herbs on a sunny mild morning, drinking cold lemonade while reading Grace Burrowes books!, kind words at unexpected moments, dancing with a skilled partner, and a good laugh. Many of these are quiet joys but warm my heart nonetheless.
Hmmm. Must be time to add a few more colorful slips of paper to my gratitude jar. (I had to empty it on July 1 because it was packed full from joys from the 1st half of the year — looks like I have MUCH to enjoy in life!)
And Grace, it is a joy to read your blog each week and to find myself asking your questions as little writing prompts — as moments to stop and appreciate all those little joys in my own life. I’m getting better at exercising my body in fruitful ways, but you offer us ways to exercise the spirit as well. Thanks!
Thanks, Jennifer. This blog is a kind of gratitude jar for me. I go through my week, thinking, writing, writing, thinking, and I’ll have a “write that down!” thought that has no place in a historical romance. But I can jot it down here and discuss with a group of thoughtful, kind people.
How lovely is THAT?!
A infection-free day when the chronic pain abates. On those days everything, anything is a joy. And more of those are toddling in!
It’s all those organic, gluten free, sugar free, bliss-by-chocolate brownies, madam. May the good days continue to pile up until you can hardly see over them to any bad ones.
Music, dancing and reading all bring me joy. Quiet, companiable times with my husband or grandkids also bring me joy. But there are a lot of little things I find joy in, too, such as a spectacular sunset, butterflies feeding or a beautiful, clear day.
Lately, I’m afflicted with the inability to do anything when a hummingbird is around but watch the bird. The colors, the agility, the grace… what a treat.
And fortunately, a hummingbird never hangs around distracting me but for a few moments.
Sometimes it’s something I have to really work at. I come from a great line of worriers. Honestly, if the phone rang it was uh-oh. I think one of my greatest compliments was when in high school my group of friends that I use to walk home with said one day that it was very boring when I wasn’t there 🙂 So my joy many times comes when I am with friends and family – love to play games too lol. When solitary, my joy is reading, especially when surrounded by my cats. Caring for animals also brings me joy!
Catslady, I’m GLAD to think of summer ending, mostly because it means several of my kit-tehs will come write with me again. They’re outside being Tigers for now, but once it cools off…. I run a space heater under my writing table, and after a few hours, the table itself can be warm.
The table acquires a carpet of kitties, and I love it.
Joy is my children — I love their self-assured view of the world. No matter what, mommy will fix it. (I think they have over-estimated my abilities but it’s nice to be reminded that I _can_ be capable of more if I tried.)
Congratulations on the new book!
Joy…it is most definitely a highly personal concept for each person. For me, it is the unexpected things that happen each day: hearing a great new song on the radio or singing (off-key) to an old favorite, a word of thanks, a great cup of tea and a good book, hubby taking us on a back-road ride with no particular destination, a hug from my 12 year-old for no reason, a talk with my mom, a good laugh at the office. No one thing brings me joy, but many things from different areas of my life, and I thank God for each one. Thank you Grace for an inspirational topic.
I love those spontaneous funnies that turn into inside jokes, that turn into sure fire ways to diffuse a tough morning at the salt mines.
And how smart are you, to have your antennae waving in many directions, catching the sunbeams from any angle. Tomorrow being Monday, I will think of you when I climb into the truck, and head for the office: Cindy says keep your eyes, ears and heart open. Never know when butterfly might land on your nose.
Grace, you couldn’t know how deeply your comment on butterflies touched me. You see, when my father passed away in 2007, we would see white butterflies near his grave and also fluttering right past our faces when we would be out and about. It got to the point that we would joke with my child that “Pop” was enjoying the walk, garden, beach, etc. with us. We still do. So, thank you, for that extra bit of joy in reminding me of their special meaning for our family.
Joy is reading and finding authors , such as yourself, Grace.
I am serious when I find people like you that have a gift they share, not just of your writing in books but in life, such as what you posted here today.
You are an inspiration and a person that makes me joyful.
I also have to say that Yoga brings me joy, because it brings me peace in a maddening world
And now, I have found one other thing that brings me joy….my writing…its time has come…
Everybody be warned: Hope Lagravinese Stern has started writing, and we were the first to hear about it! We will NOT be the last.
Not being a joyful person myself, it’s always fascinating to hang out with someone who is! My joy is in reading with a cat napping on my lap
Michelle, part of make up is to be what the situation calls for, and sometimes that’s to point out silver linings, and yet, the older I get, the happier I am. Maybe joy for some of us isn’t fireworks, it’s more that candle in the window, a small flame visible from a great distance.
And I get that kitty on your lap thing–also by your computer, perched on the clean towels in the bathroom, hanging out on top of the fridge. They are candles too!
My three year old, Seth, is one of the most joyful people I know. He wakes up happy and most often goes to bed that same way. Sure he gets frustrated with not being able to communicate with us and we get frustrated as well, but he really is such a joy and ray of sunshine. I love the fact that I can be gone for less than hour and come home to him jumping up and down and laughing and squealing because he is so excited to see me.
I am not too sure about what brings me joy. There are so many things that I get happy about, but true joy I am not so sure about.
Seth gets his sunshine from somewhere, Madam Mom. I recall reading something on the back of a Celestial Seasonings tea box long ago, about and old woman who radiated love. The writer then had a chance to observe her with her long time mate, and decided what was happening was that the woman was reflecting all the love that had been showered upon her, not generating the beauty, peace, and joy in her face out of whole cloth from within.
Thank you so much for this reminder that I need to grab hold of every single day. I’ve been thinking about this more and more, as I’ve been going through a patch of homesickness after a move (3 years ago!) that has been difficult.
Maria, my capacity for homesickness is endless, especially as fall approaches. I figured out that because I didn’t attached much to people as a child, I anchored myself tightly to places, to landscape, to the sights, sounds, smells and creatures of the natural world around me. Let me waken to the birdsong of the robins, fall asleep to the crickets and cicadas, and I’m a little bit home.
I find joy in my children, in my pets, reading & sewing, in my work. I have to be careful expressing it tho’, especially at work. People get downright angry (I don’t dance around and act up, just smile and speak with enthusiasm) as if it is just wrong – I work in an elementary school so I really don’t get it. I have to keep it pretty much to myself, except when sharing with my sister later on.
So I go home and talk baby talk and sing to my furry family and feel delight over each little step I take toward moving my shabby little abode in the aesthetic direction I wish it to go.
Sue, I’m an utter buffoon around my horse. Three quarter ton of animal, and I’m picking out his hooves, asking him to let me hold his little paw… He doesn’t seem to mind.
I cannot fathom that your coworkers in an elementary school are uncomfortable with joy. Those are the LAST people who should be around small children!
And my house is a rolling wreck too, but I love it, and slowly, slowly, one room at time, I’m clearing the wreckage. Or trying to.
It is so interesting how things come into our lives at just the right moment. I actually experienced a joyful moment last night. It was one of those moments where the stars aligned and I felt like all was right with my world. I was sitting on a swing on my back deck, puppy dog at my feet alertly watching for rabbits and reading my Kindle. The temperature was perfect, the stars were shining and the sky was clear. There was a moment when my entire body recognized the perfection and peace descended. Until the swarm of mosquito bugs attacked. But it was wonderful while it lasted. I have had those moments before and I am happy to say they are increasing in frequency. Would I have been as content and happy if any of the elements had been different or was it the perfect storm? I don’t know.
Wonderful description of a sweet moment! And I suspect your appreciation of that moment is anchored on a lot of days when the worry, the noise, the looming disasters wouldn’t allow you even a moment of peace or relaxation. You recognized the joy because you don’t take it for granted. Good on you!
I just celebrated my 60th birthday – and have never blogged. Because of the serious circumstances of life, I have experienced little joy outside of my very joyful marriage. Recently, I began reading for pleasure and find great joy in ALL of your books. I find joy in reading, rereading and partial reading of details. I find joy in sharing your stories with my husband of 40 years. We both find joy in comparing universal truths from your writing and our lives. We both find joy in your enriching vocabulary. Your writing is joyful, and as a reader of such, I find tremendous joy every day. This is no idle flattery – the experience of reading your writing is a true joy for me.
Geez, Rita…. talk about twinkles of the stars. Thank you for those encouraging words. I’m working on a book right now that has me utterly flummoxed. My bad guy is very, very bad, and I haven’t known what to DO with him. You inspire me to forge ahead.
My theory of the universe is that when we create something, what’s going on with us at the time gets mixed into the results. If you’re really looking forward the to weekend when you make up the kids’ lunches, they’ll get some gleeful anticipation with their PBJ’s. If you’re furious, well….
I’m at my very happiest when I’m writing. I’m in that, “This is what I was born to do” zone, and I hope that shows in the resulting stories.
I also hope you’re reading Joanna Bourne, because her writing is THE BEST romance writing out there, period.
This post shows such heart! You’ve brought me a smile after a hard day. What brings me joy: music with a beat you can dance to, bright colored blo
I didn’t mean to end it there! Bright colored blouses, funky jewelry, my boys’ laughter, the sight of leaves glowing green in the sun. Rainbows and breezes. The moment of stillness when my toddler rests his head on my shoulder. Joyful people radiate gratitude, humor, and grace. Sometimes even a random conversation can bring that joy- to you, or you can give it to someone else.
When I was a new-ish mom, and Beloved Offspring was perfecting the art of the Public Tantrum, an experienced parent told me that rather than feel like an utter failure when that happened, I should look around at the bystanders.
Yes, some people would be giving me, “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THAT CHILD?!” looks, but a lot more would be thinking, “Poor Mom. Hang in there. It gets better and a lot of us have been through it.”
My friend was right, and probably not coincidentally, Beloved Offspring didn’t have too many more tantrums after that. Other parents were beaming their support to us, and when I noticed it, my daughter apparently became aware of it too.
My theory any way–love that image of your toddler nestling on your shoulder.
I lost my father many years ago. The other day I sat and listened to a marathon of shows showcasing gospel music. Even though they were selling DVDs and CD, I sat mesmerized by the music and the people. I felt so relaxed, peaceful and close to my father. The music of Bill Gaither was a huge favorite of my father’s and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.
For those of you who haven’t come across Bill Gaither, he’s quite a talent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVdEdIDyeaA&list=PL481A7BA588FD1E38 My sense is he turned toward Gospel when he could have made a lot more money and seen more acclaim doing straight popular country. If you read the You Tube comments, though, this guy is responsible for saving lives with his music.
For me and my Dad, Penny, it’s Dave Brubeck’s jazz. The only concert I’ve been to that wasn’t classical was a Brubeck concert with my dad thirty five years ago. Good memory!
Joy for me is in crafting and creating. I’ve gone through weeks where I didn’t have/make time to do it and I always end up in a funk. Only way out is to make time for myself and craft away.
CREATIVE SELF EXPRESSION IS NOT OPTIONAL!!! (Tell us what you really think, Grace.)
My 27 year old son is what some would call a “slacker”. He holds a job, has interests in gaming and reading, but is generally not ambitious to go out and set the world on fire. He finds enjoyment in what he has. Some think that, since he is as he is, because I didn’t push him to “be more”, that I am a failure as a parent. But when we talk about books, music, and current events his innate kindness and intelligence emerge in his quiet, laid-back style. It brings me immense joy that I managed to raise a thoughtful, un-bigoted, sweet son. His very existence brings me joy.
If he were your daughter, a nice woman, absorbed with reading, a hobby or two when not showing up everyday on time for work, one who makes time for mom, has an interest in music and troubles herself to remain informed about current events, you’d be Mother of the Year. Because we expect so much of young men in particular, small people are judging your great accomplishment unfairly.
We’ve come a long way; we have a long way to go. If I had an unattached daughter, I’d be happy for her to meet such a gentleman.