In my daily life, I don’t often speak the word joy. When discussed out loud, the word seems childish, not based in day-to-day reality, trite, superficial, and silly. If you live a joy seeker’s life, however, and strive for this as an as-much-as-possible permanent state of wellbeing, you know better.
Joy cannot be discussed or evaluated so much as felt. It is a wellspring of emotion that bubbles to the surface whenever we allow it in the form of happiness. It can be a silent whisper of contentment. It can be a shield of resilience. It can be the hug of empathy that allows us to see the light in others. It can be compassion when we or someone we love is suffering.
Joy is a badass.
The strange thing about joy is that even though it is such an amazing state to live in, it, like many things worth doing, is built by habit and by having the ability to see it in those little moments. What amazes me, even in the bliss of joy, is how often we feel justified in choosing a state of discontent and frustration when a little twist of our perspective lands us in the realm of joy. Recognizing those moments as often as I can has become my challenge to myself, and which honestly can still go either way more often than I would like.
Looking out of the window of our house situated on a hill, the scene is one of big, fat flakes cascading down from a heavy grey sky. At least, I assume it is grey as it is 6 am, and the sun is still rolling itself out of bed. Now, there are two perspectives I could take here…one revel in the beauty of the snow on a quiet street or a slight level of panic.
I chose panic.
Before you judge me, I inherited the gene that makes me a non-snow driver. Look it up, I’m sure there is a scientific study done on those born with a genetic predisposition to view driving in the snow as a fun challenge and those who go white-knuckled. I am a white knuckler, and my natural skin tone is a shade of beige. What I will say though is that it is only in the last few years the realization has dawned that good snow tires significantly affect what shade of white my knuckles get. Nonetheless, I still would not describe myself as a snow-driver.
Those who could indulge in a gaze out the window with a hot cup of coffee and the knowledge that they were staying home today could look at the beauty. We call them privileged. I who had to drive a young adult to work looked at it like the marshmallow monster in Ghostbusters…a white fluffy nemesis seeking to swallow me whole.
Taking a deep breath and putting on my big girl snow pants, I started my journey. Fortunately for me, it is quite close…about 10 minutes away. However, I got the impression that I was displaying nervous energy when my less-experienced young adult offered to take over driving. Tempted, but politely declining, I decided this was a mission I intended to see through. Going slowly and steadily, I arrived safely at our destination with just one little slide when I turned around a corner. I took the opportunity to silently celebrate this moment of joy.
Now to return home.
Driving down the snow-covered main road, a young man stepped out towards my vehicle from the opposite side. Waving and flagging me down, he breathlessly asked if I could give him a ride down the hill to the library. He had called a taxi, but he had been waiting for over 30 minutes. Not really a big deal at the best of times, but in the face of snow, challenge #2 presented itself. A round of anxiety surfaced as I realized I would be driving down the big hill of our city. It didn’t even cross my mind to say no. This young man was the same age as my son and had some developmental challenges. My protective parental instincts kicked in, and I agreed.
Readjusting my big girl snow pants, we proceeded to the library. He chatted the whole way from telling me about his group to asking about my religious status to exclaiming in wonder that he hadn’t believed that “such a young lady” like myself would pick him up. Pulling safely into the parking lot of the library, I then left him to catch his bus with his appreciation. I again celebrated both the successful reaching of a second destination and to be called “young lady” in my late 40s.
Heading back up the hill, my tires span out on the slippery slope. Talking encouragingly to my car, I geared down and proceeded to gain some momentum. Cresting the hill, I whooped with glee. Arriving home soon after, I reassumed my position at the window…this time with a cup of coffee warming my hand and joining the ranks of the privileged.
I celebrated again because I had arrived home safely and I was drinking coffee.
Building the prevalence of joy in my life continues to be both pleasurable play and grinding work, but I appreciate more my ability to recognize those little moments of joy when they occur, as well as move more quickly through the negative ones.
Because even when we’re doing something we fear or are being inconvenienced, joy is peeking its head around the corner. In fact, joy often hides in the inconvenient. If you’re lucky though after successfully facing your fear and after being inconvenienced, joy might even throw in a bonus like “young lady” long after the days of showing identification at the liquor store have passed.
I’d drive it again without snow tires for that.