"A frog's true joy, Irwin, is untouched by is circumstances" Dharma reminded me. I do often often forget this, especially when I get really busy like I am during the holidays. But joy is always present in all of us. Sometimes we just need to dig a little deeper to mind it. The French have a phrase, "joi de vivre," that perfectly captures the essence of a joyful life. And no one does joy like the French! It's almost as if they invented it. Through the centuries, both good and bad, the French have hung onto the idea that life is meant for living....which means finding joy in the smallest things, even during war and revolution.
My teacher expanded on the French theory of "joi de vivre," and explained that our joy often hides right in plain sight. I found this concept ratherer intriguing and asked my wise teacher to enlighten me. I wanted to know where was MY joy hiding these days. Here's a not-so-brief synopsis of what I learned:
1. Fast walks and short talks. We've all experienced happiness and joy in long, shared conversations with those we love; often accompanied by a long hop, or walk. But there's something to be said about a short talk with a short walk. During the holidays, most of us don't have time to take a leisurely stroll and talk for hours. It's rush, rush, rush. But taking a quick jaunt, perhaps a power walk, and spending 15-20 minutes catching up with an old friend can bring about that lost feeling of connection. And before you know it, et voila, joy is rekindled.
2. Under the third-grade participation trophy. Mom's have a tendency to hang on to things we think are weird or too sentimental...locks of hair, macaroni art, and that third-grade trophy we got just for showing up at the 3-legged race. Upon reflection, though, we can remember how much fun we had that day, even though we didn't win first prize. We fondly remember our school chum, the one we were tied to; we can feel the warmth of the sun on that early spring day, and how proud we felt about receiving that trophy, even though everybody got one. Look back on those days and see if they don't bring a smile to your face. That is true joy you're feeling.
3. On the ironing board. Personally, I like to iron. I like the smell of freshly-pressed cotton with just a hint of spray starch. I take great pleasure in seeing my clothes, with perfect creases, hanging up in my closet. I find ironing almost meditative. it makes me happy. Not into ironing? That's ok. I bet there's some mundane chore you do that you find relaxing...maybe doing the dishes, or dusting all your treasured knick-knacks and pictures frames. Touching them, remembering where they came from or who gave them to you, looking at loved ones in those photos...all can serve a joyful purpose. Whatever your "thing" is, do it and and feel the joy seep back into your being.
4. Look under the letter "G" in the dictionary. Grace, generosity, gratitude...lots of joyful words there. Author Becky Blades says that joy actually started out to be a "g" word but Webster needed more words for the letter "J" so he changed the spelling and added it there. Even though it's probably not even remotely true, I do like the thought. And it makes me smile. And a smile can bring joy.
5. Where your mom didn't look. Kids have a way of finding unusal places to hide. Where did you hide as a kid? Your mom knew about many of those places, heck, they're probably the same places she hid as a child. But others, she never found out about. If you ask a kid, or think back to your own childhood, your hiding place was often your happy place; a place free from distraction and parental oversight...a place where you could let your imagine run wild. Even though you're not that little any more, can you you still go to that happy place? If not, find a new one. For me, I like to "hide" under the weeping willow tree. Everybody knows I'm there, but they've come to respect that that's at my quiet place and no one bothers me. I feel happy there. I do my best thinking there. We all need a place, or even simply a tiny space, that we can call our own. Joy awaits you there.
6. Inside microscope or telescope. You may not have either one, but they're pretty cheap to buy. Public schools have them, too, and I bet the science teacher would be thrilled to have use come in after class and use it. Looking at orninary things at 300-times magnification can be pretty exciting...be it bug parts, a snow flake, or a stand of hair. And what about star-gazing? Looking up at the night sky aways fills me with awe (and, of course, joy). But seeing the stars through a high-powered telescope, making tiny specks appear so close that you can touch them, well, "that's just joy showing off," says joy author Becky Blades. And she's right! What a true joy it is to see our magificent world up close and personal. Not only will you be filled with joy and wonderment, you'll never look at the sky, or hair, or bugs the same way again. Simple joy that is far from simple. Be amazed and find joy.
7. Empty spaces on your calendar. Our schedules fill up really fast during the rush of the holidays...lots of things vying for our time an attention. But wait. What is that you see? Can it really be a spot of white under next Tuesday afternoon? Sure, you could find something to fill in that blank space. Then again, it could be your joy trying to get your attention. Instead of using that "free time" to run errands or do more shopping, why not set that time aside for a bubble bath, or to watch "It's a Wonderful Life?" Take advantage it. You may not see a white space on your calendar again for a long time. Joy is trying to make a date with you. Don't stand her up!
After Dharma had left, and I had cleaned up around the lily pad, I knew what I had to do. I had to reaquaint myself with my inner joy. It's been misplaced for too long. I decided to spend some time today just being a kid again. When school let's out this afternoon, I'm taking my little brother, Quigley, ice skating. Afterwards, we'll have a mug of hot chocolate and, if time permits, read a favorite book aloud. I can't wait! And you know what? I feel so much joy, right now, that I could burst! Go ahead. Find a little joy of your own today. It's right where you left it; hiding in plain sight.