It’s true that a joyful person is adored—anyone would rather be around an optimist than an Eeyore. Joy is like glitter. No matter how hard you try to keep it contained, it spreads and spreads, even to the most unlikely places. Joy’s been on my mind because it’s been missing from my life for a few years now. I know I’m in charge of my own happiness. But, how exactly do I do that, when I feel like my world has ended? How do I grab joy and rise out of the darkness, instead of sinking further in?
I’m not one to skip through public places like Will Ferrell in Elf. Even at my happiest, I’m a “dancing on the inside” kind of girl. But what I am trying to do each day as I navigate these unknown waters is to take a moment of private time, find joy within myself, and then hold on dearly. It’s a spiritual feeling that takes a physical presence—if I think about it, I can actually feel it, like a tiny glowing coal deep in my gut. When I find it and greet it before I transition from private to public, it beams out and bounces back, all day long.
This is my second single-mother Christmas. My divorce after a 25-year relationship was swift, unexpected, and complete. My then-husband got up, walked out, and never looked back. During the first year, joy was the furthest thing from my mind. Slowly but surely the fog began to lift. I’m not sure I chose joy as much as I chose not sadness and not pity. By seeking the opposite of what I didn’t want, I found my way to living with joy.
The deck is stacked a bit given that it’s December. But no matter the form—a song lyric, a decoration, a card, a gift bag—universe-whispers of JOY are crossing my path on a near-daily basis. And the more I see it, the more I feel it, and the firmer my grasp becomes.
This month is the first month in ages I’ve had laugh-out-loud moments with my daughters. I can’t remember the triggers but I’ll never forget the feeling. Bonding over an agreed-upon ridiculous moment makes us realize “We get each other. We think alike. We’re happy together.”
I have delightful vistas from my country home: gem-filled night skies that take my breath away and rosy pink early winter mornings when the silhouette of a barn and some bare trees against the rising sun provides an instantaneous, simultaneous feeling of peace and awe. And instead of rushing by, dwelling on my misfortune, I stop, look, and feel, even if it’s just for a minute.
My daughter insists on playing the 24-hour Christmas radio station in the car, something I’ve always scoffed at. You know what? It brings joy. Whether it’s Bruce’s gravely rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town or a sentimentally sweet take on White Christmas, hearing these songs as I drive lightens my mood and removes the grind from the daily routine. I was prompted to revive some abandoned Christmas rituals: I baked cookies. I decked my halls. We trimmed a tree. I wrote and sent cards to the people I cared about the most. Joy is seeping in.
Choosing joy in a conscious way means it becomes your companion, your compass, and your center of gravity. Choosing joy is the best way to keep the hurt, anger, and pain from becoming overwhelming. Choosing joy is the way I want to live, every day.