As I finished up a storybook this weekend I looked at the big picture of the person’s life and thought about what the cover of this book should portray: and it was joy.
Piecing together the stories of her life, it was clear to see, regardless of the difficulties she faced, time and time again she chose joy and shared it with those around her. The cover of her life story was bright, bold, and the picture was one of her living life with joy. Joy captured with the snap of a camera many years ago.
I do believe that joy is a choice. Sometimes people confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is a momentary feeling. You don’t choose happiness or control it. Happiness comes and goes. It is an external experience. Joy is an inner feeling, regardless of your circumstance. At least, that is how I look at it.
I don’t look at my life and strive for happiness. I strive to be joyful, even in difficult times. The holiday season is a time when being joyful is front and center. I googled how many Christmas songs use the word joy, but oddly, neither Alexa, Siri, or any of their other friends, had a direct answer for me on that. But point being, this is a time when we are supposed to spread holiday joy, and sing “Joy to the World”.
In the reality of our daily lives though, it is not always easy to channel our inner joy. That joy can become buried under worry, regret, sadness, and all of the other emotions vying for our attention. Like anything else though, if intentional, I think the joy inside of us can grow and keep those other emotions at bay. For me, my biggest competitor to joy is worry. Worry loves to get all of my attention. There are things to worry about, sure, but there are also so many many things that can bring us true joy.
The holidays are often the perfect storm of emotions colliding: memories of Christmas’s past, the absence of those that are no longer with us, trying to capture the magic we felt as a child, and the need to recreate this for our own children.
And sometimes, when difficult things happen around the holiday season, they are now part of the package every year. When the next Christmas rolls around, there that memory is waiting for you, just like an ornament you unpack from the box and place on your tree.
One ornament I dust off every year is the memory of a Christmas, many years ago, when a family ended. I remember the light snowfall, similar to a movie scene where it never amounts to much but is just a pretty backdrop, but this was a backdrop to me finalizing a divorce.
As I left the lawyer's office and stepped outside, even though downtown, it was a peaceful silence. I could hear piped Christmas music playing as I crunched through the snow and crossed the street. I did not see a soul anywhere. It was just me, the snow, the light sounds of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and the finality of where I was at. I could have gotten in my car, but I saw the pawn shop, walked in, and five minutes later walked out without my wedding ring.
In my mind, in the peace of the quiet, and a break from the ‘holiday cheer’, it was done. It was a feeling of acceptance with underlying sadness. And let’s be honest, the feeling of a knife to the gut. This feeling, this memory, will be with me every Christmas. It was difficult and painful, but it is part of my life story. Just like all of the happy, silly, and wonderful moments.
As we get older, we all have that - the good and the bad, the happy and the sad of the season. The trick is to choose joy anyway. Unpack all of the memories, all of the emotions, and place them on your tree and when you step back and turn on the Christmas lights, all of those memories will glitter and sparkle in the glow and the joy will shine through. You just have to choose to see it.