Choosing Joy

blogjoy

joy

noun

  1. A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. delight. jubilation. exultation. rejoicing. happiness. gladness. glee. exhilaration. exuberance. elation. euphoria. bliss. ecstasy.

The house was finally quiet, we climbed under the covers and our hands found each other like slow heat seeking missiles. I’ve always felt comforted by his hands. They are strong, worn, they built us a house, but the best thing about them is they are always warm.

I could tell he was drifting off to sleep but I broke the silence and asked him, what is your dream life? I mean, if you could have any life you wanted, what would it look like?

He was quiet for a long time and to any stranger who doesn’t know how my husband communicates, would likely define it as an awkward silence. When we were first married I would anxiously ask a question again and again like a rapid fire machine gun until he answered me. More often than not, it backfired on me. Now, after 8 years of marriage, I know that he processes differently than me. He does not have a million words. He has a few words and they are always truthful and they are what he means to say. I have learned that standing still and waiting in the silence is a means to love him better.

Right before I fell asleep he answered me, I am living my dream life.

His response caught me off guard for two reasons. First, it was true.  Second, I couldn’t add my usual devils-advocate glass-is-half-empty comments. Now, of course our life isn’t perfect but in that moment I realized there is nothing I could add to it that would equal more fulfillment.

Me too, I added.

This conversation really stuck with me the whole next day. If I am living my “dream life” why don’t I experience more joy? 

I have a confession to make: I used to judge people who were positive because I thought they were fake. How shallow to pretend everything is fine when the whole world is falling apart around you. I used to spend half my time philosophizing about all the disasters, and the other half worrying about them. I believed that people who didn’t do this too, were just simply not as deep as me.

What I have come to see is that these people are not shallow, they are actually very strong. They are like the warrior Salmon who made their way from the Ocean and are fighting the river upstream. They are made of pure self discipline and grit. They are pushing against this powerful force for a reason and it is so easy to flow with the river of worry, negativity, and ungratefulness. All you have to do is lay back and let the current push you.

It takes huge amount of ambition to choose joy amidst all the pain.

There I was walking around in my dream life and I didn’t even know I was there. When we’re so focused on what is wrong in our life, we aren’t really living because we aren’t experiencing the moments that make it worth living. I think it is important to try to ask ourselves, “is the price I am paying for worry and fear worth the cost of contentment and peace?”

Sometimes the answer is yes, absolutely. I write about this subject with authority. I have experienced great loss, trauma, cancer of a loved one, broken relationships, personal struggles, fear and worry. These things are important and should be acknowledged as so. I am not belittling the true difficulties in life or the seasons of grief that demand our full attention.

I am simply stating that there will be pain. However, joy is not guaranteed unless you fight for it.

When I married Jason I was solely focused on his strengths. As the years went on, as most marriages experience, I began to notice his weaknesses too. Author Pamela Druckerman explained in her latest book that French couples go into relationships searching for their partners strengths and weaknesses. They do this with the goal of committing to accept and love both equally.

Jason is a fiercely loyal father and husband but he also struggles to put up boundaries with a toxic person. He leaves his underwear on the floor next to the laundry hamper but he has never come home and commented that the house is a mess. As I have matured in our relationship, when I see a pile of his work clothes on the floor, I try really hard (and I fail often) to remember that he wouldn’t nag me about being a slob. As the years have gone on, we have adjusted in un-familiar ways in our interactions with each other with a greater goal in mind: a more fulfilling and peaceful relationship.

After almost a lifetime of focusing on what is wrong in my life or what hypothetical disaster I could prevent from happening I have come to believe that the dream life is not a perfect life. A dream life is accepting that life is full of tragedy as much as it is beauty. And I’ve decided to fight as if my life depends on it, (because it does) for a “half-full” perspective on the whole package.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Choosing Joy

  • This reminds me of that Carly Simon Song, “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”.

    It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
    It’s the slow and steady fire
    It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
    It’s your heart and soul’s desire…

    Go listen to the words of that song. You are in such good company, coming to this realization…you and Carly!

    Liked by 1 person

  • That was very insightful. It gave me something to chew on and I feel I can use this idea to change my attitude. Thank you. I liked it.

    Like

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