A few years ago, a friend of mine was battling cancer. During the tragic last year of his struggle he chronicled the events of each day for his friends and family and for the online world to see. His goal was to simply not let his sickness erode away the joy in his every day life. As he went through the highs and the very lows of chemotherapy, acute sickness and eventually certain pending death, he knew, and often reminded his readers, that joy was a choice. It wasn’t something that was dependent on, or distinguished by, the circumstances of each day. If that were the case, then joy would be ever distant, and rarely embraced, a fickle thing more myth than reality.
Joy is deeper than being happy.
What my friend knew, perhaps better than most, was that joy was something you have to be intentional about finding and holding onto.You have to fight for it sometimes, and its well worth the effort.
This message has begun to finally resonate with me this year. Finding joy in the little things has helped me through many of the tragedies, the heartbreaks and the hard decisions I’ve had to face in the past months. For me, it has really been about remaining thankful. Identifying the good things in my life and focusing on them instead of the negative has opened a channel through which an authentic joy has been realized, born through gratitude.
But its a slippery thing, this joy. It will leave you empty-handed if you let it, fade away like a snuffed out flame. There are so many things in today’s world that will pull us down. We become disenfranchised, defeated and obtusely numb when we allow ourselves to be swallowed by the madness of it all. Just a quick look on social media and you can see the world is pulling apart at the seams. People are angry, violent and so bitter. How can we possibly find anything good in the chaos and noise?
Unplug. Refocus. And simplify.
As we enter the holiday season based on the idea of giving thanks, are we really thankful? We take the thirty-day challenge on Facebook and post the things we’re thankful about. Day one is this and day to is that. But what happens in December? January? June? What happens when life isn’t involved with pumpkin pie and football and stuffed birds?
Or what if our holidays are no longer filled with the people we love the most?
One thing about this life that I’ve certainly learned; for most of us, it’s never easy.
This isn’t going to be a blog about the ten things I’m most thankful for. The blogosphere is crammed full of those kinds of lists. But we don’t need another person telling us what to be thankful for, and we don’t need to look to someone else’s blessings to find inspiration. We need to look into our own lives and figure out what it is we take for granted. We need to look into our own hearts and figure out what really moves us there. We need to look into the faces of the people around us and figure out what we have to give that would really matter. Somewhere on the way into the twenty-first century, we’ve lost touch with the art of reflection. We’re busy, we’re stressed and we’re really good at going through the motions. We allow ourselves a few days out of the year where its socially acceptable to pause, but we’re not really comfortable with that pause.
Think about that for a moment.
So pass the plate of cranberries tomorrow. Watch the Cowboys win. Listen to Uncle Joe’s windy stories that he’s shared a thousand times. But the day after tomorrow, go outside and a watch the sunrise and focus on one thing that you are thankful for. It could be the cup of coffee in your hand. It could be the tractor sitting in your barn. Whatever it is, think about why it matters. What would you do if you didn’t have that in your life? And what can you do with that one thing that would matter to another person?
Do this again the next day. And the next. Share your stories with someone. Listen to theirs. Make people matter.
Joy will come. When it does, fight to never let it go.