For the longest time, I think I was under the misapprehension that happiness and joy needed to happen TO me. Ahhhh, wouldn't it be swell if that were true? Just kick back and without any effort, VOILA! It just happens. Not.
That doesn't lessen the magic of joy, the shiny thrill of it. Joy just needs us to conspire with her. Dive in.
I don't know about you, but I now understand that often, I actually need to make some effort to experience joy. I either need to open up to it. Or cultivate gratitude or awareness of it. Or choose to focus on what's joyful in my life, and not on what's drab or discouraging.
Sure daily wear and tear on the soul and spirit are inevitable. But the opportunity for joy is equally unrelenting. I just need to script it into my play.
1) Helpful reminders: "Joy is not in things; it is in us." –Richard Wagner
"If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong." –Groucho Marx
2) What are you waiting for?: Funny how talking or thinking about or cultivating joy is so readily dismissed by many as fluff, inconsequential. Sometimes the smirks I get when I talk about this blog make me shrink. But only momentarily.
Because if you time travel to 10 or 50 years from now and imagine looking back on your life, what is it you would want to see? What do you think you would cherish?
Maybe you'd love the rote work, the avoidable drudgery, the livin' small. In which case, do it! But if we know that what makes us tick, what gives our lives meaning, are the joyful treasures, why wouldn't we go for that?
Of course, we all have responsibilities, things we MUST do even if we don't want to. I'm talking about the other time we're sauntering along, or slogging through, our paths. When I can, I'm showering it with love, family and friends, laughter, beauty, and tasty food, color, helping and (ideally) inspiring people, my Santa Hat, dancing and sometimes euphoria. What about you?
3) Real Time Example: As I finish writing that second paragraph, the phone rings and a good friend has sad news about 2 sets of mutual friends. Ugh.
Of course, I'm sad for them and my heart goes out to them in their current challenges. But I realize I can be dragged down by the undertow of sadness or I can resurface and get back to musing and writing about joy. My choice, my responsibility. Dunno about you, but I'm choosing joy.
4) Joy in a Recipe: In case I haven't been clear, I LOVE TO COOK! I LOVE TO EAT YUMMY FOOD!! They bring me joy.
OK, I confess that I haven't had a chance yet to try the pasta with cream sauce that I wrote about awhile back, but my friend Paula made it and said it was delicious. Thanks, Paula, for takin' one for the team :).
Last weekend, I DID make a fantastic dinner of Roasted Shrimp with Feta, fennel and tomato (Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?, p.146). Tip: can make ahead.
And now, I've got my eyes and taste buds revving up for the luscious dessert recipes in the May issue of Food and Wine featuring "Best New Pastry Chefs." Especially the tantalizing Spiced Cashew Brittle and Chocolate Crunch Bark (the latter only requires bittersweet chocolate and Rice Krispies. C'mon!).
5) Music to My Ears – Joy Soundtrack: I need more time to develop this, but right off the top of my head, "What A Wonderful World," with Louis Armstrong; "Beginnings," Chicago; much of Aretha, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra's Capitol Years; "Tighten Up," with Beau Jocque; "Another Star," Stevie Wonder; "You Bring Me Joy," Anita Baker; "Beautiful Day," U2; "I've Seen All Good People," Yes; "Find the Beat Again," Sugarland ... You try.