See the Joy

As I’m preparing to offer a webinar on staying joyous as a writer (wish me luck), my attention is drawn to the larger topic of happiness. I came across this post, about how to make it easier to think happy thoughts. The gist is, make a list of eight things you’d enjoy thinking about, then take some time to think about them.

How hard can that be? Well… for some of us,  it’s not easy. We are habituated to entertaining ourselves with screens rather than with our own cogitations, and our default thoughts might be worry, loneliness, or anger rather than fluffy bunnies or that time we got the giggles with the book club.

When I made my list, I had to ponder some to come up with ideas that were almost exclusively joyous. Bunnies are wonderful, but not if they are spreading tularemia or wrecking the garden,  and yes, that’s how my mind works.

My list included: My daughter, yard flowers, landscaping my stream (naturally, and this one’s aspirational),  Scotland, my next book, San Tome chocolate from the Highland Chocolatier, Dave Brubeck’s Time Further Out Album (and Take Five from Time Out, of course), and horses (especially dear Santa).

Having revved up my good-thoughts engine, I could come up with more (which would include my bloggin’ buddies!), but items five through eight took some pondering. The interesting thing about the cited study is, everybody derived some enjoyment from thinking of their favorite things, so to speak, but people who made the list visible had an easier time staying with the joyous thoughts. I was reminded of last week’s post, about how controlling our environment plays a big role in helping us pursue goals and accomplish tasks.

And my reflections from there go in all directions: The attention merchants of Big Tech (author Tim Wu’s term) win when we lose awareness of that environment and become absorbed in the screen world. Open office plans, with hot-desks, team benches, and other dehumanizing abominations, deprive us of a work environment we can visually influence, much less control. COVID tossed us all back into the one place we do control–our homes–and most workers (especially non-white-male workers) are apparently happier spending more time there.

What we see matters in terms of guiding our thoughts. Many of my writing buddies have an ego wall–a place to keep awards in plain sight, to frame a copy of each published book cover, to display glowing reviews, or a photocopy of that first advance check. I have referred to my home as a roofed campsite, but from my computer chair I can see a sketch my brother did when he was sixteen, the admission ticket to the 2013 Highland Games in Braemar where I first saw Her Majesty, a plastic rubber ducky with the Scottish saltire on his chest, and an inspirational quote from Lorin Oberweger’s Free Expressions writing seminars.

I’m going to make a greater effort to put the joy where I can see it. What joy do you keep in plain sight?


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15 comments on “See the Joy

  1. I see the joy in nature- love to spend time with Greg on the deck. We watch the birds, chipmunks and bunnies. And watch the hummingbirds. It’s amazing to watch the goings on in my backyard from a chair on the deck.

    I have a photo of my family on my bookshelf. There is so much joy in the photo- smiling faces and corgi smiles. It makes me appreciate my family every time I see it.

    Greg is joy. He’s such as easy going dog. Today, we saw my neighbor and he was so excited. He trotted down to see her and she loved him up. He is loving nosework class and is a joy to spend time with…

    I am still working from home and I have learned to appreciate my home, yard, family and dogs…there a lot of joy around me.

  2. I like pictures of pretty flowers. When I was still working, one of my co-workers had a hobby of photographing flowers in the university’s botanical garden. She happened to have some prints she was going to discard since they hadn’t turned out quite right (I remember things such as the developer not printing the edge of the picture or a streak somewhere) and I asked her to give them to me. I had a windowless office (but at least it was an office with a door) and I taped those pictures on all four walls, even behind my desk chair. I have some prints of paintings with pictures in my home office, now. I feel joy in other things, of course, but colorful flowers are my go-to. I keep the blinds in my office open during the day so that I can look outside. I only see flowers when the azaleas bloom in late January/early February but I know there are flowers out there somewhere.

  3. When my kids were in Jr. High and High School, I framed all their awards put them on one wall in their rooms. When their jr.high grad came around, I framed their party invitations. There are awards for French, math and music and for scoring really well on several standardized tests and being on the Dean’s list (not too many of those, but some). I reasoned that if the saw their successes, they wouldn’t be afraid to have more successes….or something like that.

    I’ve framed my DH’s book cover (he wrote the first children’s book about autism) and we have various other family type things framed in our family room. I’ve made photo collages for each child and for some of the high lights of our family’s vacations. All of those things are reminders of happiness and those reminders can help during our struggles.

  4. I did not realise till recently that my home has many different animals in it.Every room has a animal wild or domestic on display.When you walk through the door into the hall you see a picture of two monkeys arms around each other.Cute.Then further along a painting of two donkeys flashing their teeth this makes me grin.Going up the stairs I see an owl sitting on a branch of a tree ,this a beautiful chime.Hung so it can be rung whilst stepping up stairs.On the ledge seagulls sit reminding of the seafront outside.In the lounge site two dogs.One a doorstop the other an ornament both depicting breeds of long ago loved pets.In the kitchen I have three ceramic pigs sitting on units.My crockery have farm animals printed on each plate dish cup.Even my bedroom has a bear sitting on the otterman.The bathroom has not been left out.My nail brush is a small duck.To have these items around me gives JOY and comfort.It’s me!!!!!!!!!.A sound reminder of a happy childhood living on a farm,and special pets through the years.I am blessed.

  5. My rose bushes newly planted in the front now I’ve finally found an effective deer repellent. A silver filigree over cobalt glass bud vase. Wearing a lovely perfume every day even if I’m wearing shorts & doing chores. Makeup to express my artistic side, even if no one sees my look of the day. My specialty nib fountain pens, especially a silver overlay I designed with the aid of a friend & had crafted by a lovely artist now dead. The lovely photos I set as alternating desk & screen shots on my devices. Glorious music from around the world summoned on my speakers to match or lift moods. A wide variety of teas & coffees to titillate my taste buds. The ever-changing sky view across the lake. Goodness I’m blessed!

  6. I literally keep my greatest sources of joy within sight! I received a smart watch for my birthday and when deciding which “face” I want to appear on my watch, I opted for the photo display. I was able to choose a rotating gallery of 24 pictures of my family; my wonderful husband, our terrific son and his lovely wife, their 2 incredible kids, and my amazing daughter. Of course I could never forget the animals in our life who have also brought us joy over the years, though those pictures are tinged with sadness as well, because some of those beloved pets are no longer with us. Still, I picked pictures showing them in happier days. Every time I glance at my watch during the course of the day, I can’t help but be reminded of the good fortune and joy in my life. Stay safe! Stay well everyone!

  7. When I am in my own home, my whole body relaxes. I still work full time and there is just something about being in the office that makes me tense, even if nothing stressful is going on. At home, I have three dogs who stay close to me, and cats who take turns for lap time. One cat just jumped off my lap, and I see our three dogs who are relaxing in their crates. They just got dog biscuits. Weekends are lovely.

  8. There were several murders of crows in this neighbourhood when we first started building. It became rather a theme. Somehow we acquired a crow decoy with which at least a few tried to mate early on. Among others, I have one perched above the “office” door. Anyone who has built has at least thought “nevermore.”

    I have a poster of Rudi Hurzlmeier’s crow next to the bed and a variety of art cards I rotate through the stand on the dresser. Charles Van Sandwyk has some funny ones. They always make me smile.

  9. Plants. My plants being me a lot of joy, so I have several around the house to enjoy. Not too many, so that they aren’t too much work, becaue that would diminish my joy.

    I too adore Dave Brubeck’s Time Further Out Album and Take Five from Time Out!! I have never tired of them

  10. I got a new car last month. And like most of the few new cars that manage to show up at dealerships these days, it is white. To be able to find my car in a parking lot full of many white cars (yes, I tried opening the trunk on someone else’s car), I bought 70s style, mod, brightly colored flower magnets to stick all over my car. I can now find my car, but most importantly, I smile and/or giggle when I see it. And hopefully it also makes others smile, too.

    • I have been looking for a year for a car that is the Right Kind of Blue, and it just made me so happy to read your post. How wonderful and creative you are. To not become the what if we were all the same? In the Peter Speiss book “People” and all drove the same gray cars? I just love your solution and reading of it makes me so happy.

  11. I used to shut my eyes and imagine the feeling of holding my daughters as they drifted to sleep as babies. Nothing negative could keep hold when I conjured that feeling. Now I have a granddaughter to hold in real time as well.

    As for things around my work station – it actually encompasses my whole house. Almost every picture on the walls maybe 95% are gifts, some homemade.
    I look at them and feel warm an happy. Maybe that is why I am such a home body?!

  12. Ten or more years ago, I embraced the concept of Unleashing Bliss. I didn’t think you had to “Find” it, you just need to unleash it. Unleashing bliss is recognizing what brings you joy in life. The shadows of clouds on hillsides, a baby’s laugh, the velvet softness of a flower. When you see something you like, you say in your mind and heart, “Thank you.”
    I have metal cabinets in my office. I bought a role of magnet tape and with that, affix my favorite things to the cabinet fronts: picture, drawings, cartoons, sayings etc. It is nice to surround yourself with whatmakes you smile. Now that is joy.

  13. About three years ago my New Year’s resolution was to love everything in my life. I removed item and people that were psychologically toxic to me then started through the everyday things like curtains, wall color, clothing. I wanted to wake up, look around my bedroom and feel joy because everything I saw, I loved. I’m now applying this to the main floor and still need to address the basement but the difference in my outlook has been substantial. I’m teaching myself what it feels like to live my best life instead of sacrificing.