Joy is always around you, ever present, everywhere. But we have been trained to not take it in; we have learned to push it away.
Why? For protection. We don’t want to get too happy or the “other shoe may drop”. We don’t want to get too joyful or maybe we won’t be prepared for something disastrous.
Or we don’t want to feel joy because we don’t want to experience the emotional shift to pain, frustration, disappointment – we stay low so we don’t have to feel the fluctuations of our feelings.
Choosing to not feel joy doesn’t protect you from anything. Pretending to not care doesn’t keep you from caring. Your job on Earth is to experience joy, appreciate your time, notice the beauty. If you don’t believe this, then why are we here?
To suffer? I don’t think so. Yes, we will have a balanced array of emotions – pain, fear, disappointment, grief, excitement, surprise – but they are emotions, they are not who we are.
The more we take in our joy, the more we enjoy our stay here. Because although you already know this, it needs to be said again - We have a limited stay on this Earth, so let’s enjoy our time.
It sounds cliché, but it’s true. When do we think we are supposed to start enjoying life? We tell our kids to buckle down, focus more on doing then being, focus more on work rather than play, because we believe this will help them become “happy”.
And aren’t most of us still doing this today? We are buckling down, focusing more on doing than being, working more than playing – when does it end, when does that “happy” part arrive?
How about now?
This moment is it; it’s the only thing that is real. And if this moment isn’t working for you, it’s your responsibility to make some shifts, get some support, and have faith in something better. It won’t just “happen”; you need to make a choice.
You need to choose to feel the joy.
The first thing you can do is notice when something feels good, acknowledge it, and take it in.
Maybe it’s a loving moment with your partner, your children, your work, or nature, just breathe it in; don’t push it away. Don’t shove it off as a fluke, or not true, or not lasting – take it, it’s yours to keep.
Again, you may want to push it away to protect yourself, but question that belief system. For example, you are having a really great day and the first thing you think is, “uh oh, what’s going to go wrong…something has to wrong.”
What is that? That’s not true, that’s a story of protection.
Here are some other unhelpful stories we tell ourselves:
- I have one healthy child, so most likely the next one won’t be…
- I love my family, so there is no way I can love my work, too, that’s just too much (or vice versa)…
- We had a good time last year, but there is no way we can have a good time again…
- Things feel great now, but I know something is around the corner…
- Two of my kids are really well behaved, so there is no way the third one will be, too…
- This year was great, so that must mean that next year will suck…
- I feel so good right now, but I know I don’t deserve it….
- This is too good to be true…
- I am much more comfortable when things are going wrong; I know how to handle that…
- I have already achieved one dream, I don’t want to get greedy and ask for more…
Are you getting the point? We feel joy and we push it away as a fluke, or undeserved, or only a “moment” before everything comes crashing down. I am not saying you can sustain the feeling of joy all the time, but even when it arrives, you aren’t even enjoying the joy! It becomes almost a burden because in your mind it signifies something “bad” is on its way.
This is because we don’t want to be vulnerable. We don’t want to set ourselves up for disaster. But the truth is that choosing joy does not set you up, and choosing to not feel joy does not protect you. It just numbs you.
You can’t “prepare” for trauma – when trauma comes you deal with it in that moment. No amount of preparation can keep you from experiencing the emotion of life’s many twists and turns.
You can’t be prepared for the experience of birth - yes, you can take a class, have a doula, practice hypnobirthing, but nobody could have truly prepared me for that physical/emotional experience.
You can’t be prepared to become a parent - yes, you can have the diapers and clothes ready, but the emotional experience is a moment to moment learning process.
You can’t be prepared for someone to die - yes, you can have paperwork in order, and issues worked out, but the emotional experience of grief is in the moment, you can’t skip over it.
You can’t be prepared for every disaster, natural or otherwise – yes, you can have some extra food and water available, but you can’t plan everything, you can’t see everything coming; sometimes things just happen. And when things happen, your instinct and survival skills take over, you live in a present state of awareness.
Being anxious and joyless doesn't help you, it stifles and distracts you, it keeps you in a perpetual state of preparation rather than living.
The truth is that it's often more difficult to sit in love and joy than it is in pain. Mostly because joy feels too big, it feels too real and raw.
So like everything else, joy is a practice. When you are having a joy-filled moment, take a deep breath and take it in. Embrace it, appreciate it; know that it’s one of the many gifts of being alive. It won’t make you weak or slow, it will make you powerful and full. It will take you out of your head and into your heart.
And then when issues come up, when you have to grieve, when you are in pain, or when you are disappointed, you will be stronger and more able to deal with it. You will have more energy to pull from. You will have greater clarity and imagination so you can deal with it in an effective and heart-centered way.
You will have a better perspective on life.
You will begin to appreciate that life is a subtle balance of light and dark, a flowing between the two. You can’t control it, but you can learn to move with it and appreciate all of the goodness along the way.
And what do you want for your kids? Do you want them to breathe in the joy of life, or do you want them to focus on doom and gloom and feel unworthy of goodness?
They learn by watching how you live, so take in your joy.
It gives them permission to do the same.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. No worries, this list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Cathy blogs about joy, and she talks about it, too! Click here to find Zen Parenting Radio, a podcast Cathy co-hosts with her husband Todd.