On Monday mornings around here, we are chatting about joy. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!
Audrey is a fellow blogger whom I met during our mutual time in D.C. Audrey has some amazing stories about her two years in Spain and a fabulous sense of fashion and style. She also has a sweet daughter E. Audrey and her husband are raising their little girl bilingually (Spanish + English!), a project that was the inspiration for Audrey’s fascinating blog Espanolita. I love reading Audrey’s posts and feel a special bond with her since our babies are just a few months apart. Naturally, I was thrilled when Audrey agreed to share her thoughts on joy here.
Are you a naturally joyful person?
My middle name is Rejoice. Seriously. My name is Audrey Rejoice Kratovil. I admit I am not a naturally joyful person. But I am taking steps to becoming more joyful!
Honestly, I lean towards pessimism, worry, and “worst-case-scenario.” For example, my husband tells me he’ll be home for dinner by 6:30pm. It’s 6:47, and he still hasn’t walked in the door. My mind starts racing, “Oh, my God, what if he’s been in a freak bike accident and has died? That means I’ll have to go back to work and put our daughter in day care. Do I move in with my parents or my sister-in-law??” Cue stomach cramps. Sixty seconds later, he walks in the door. Note to self: need to work on joy.
While some describe joy as a deep state of being, steadfast among the currents of stressful circumstances, rooted in a Higher Being outside of themselves, others use it interchangeably with happy. I find myself with one foot on either end of the spectrum. To me, joy can mean being happy (i.e., no effort needed). But, sometimes it requires you to make a choice and take action to rejoice.
What brings you the most joy?
Right now, my eleven-month-old daughter, E., brings me the most joy. I don’t care if it’s cliché-sounding because it’s true. For the first time I understand how loving and serving another person can bring you joy. And, yes, this despite months of interrupted sleep and weird hormonal changes to my body. I sneak into her bedroom Every. Single. Night. to stare at her asleep. I lay my hand on her tiny warm fingers and just want to melt into the floor.
What is something “little” that brings you the most joy?
I’m happy when I’ve slept eight hours straight, and I’m thrilled when I make a major vintage find at a thrift store. I’m in heaven while savoring jamón Serrano from Spain. I enter a state of near nirvana when I open the shoe section of the Anthropologie catalogue. But, with those things, I don’t have to try. I’m just happy. They are not cause to rejoice. (See my thoughts to questions four, five, and six for how I’m learning to rejoice.)
In what ways do you struggle with joy? Obstacles?
Obstacles to joy: me. Let me explain.
If I wait for happy thoughts, moments, and feelings to come to me, I am often left empty-handed – as the mother of an infant, when was the last time I slept for eight hours? The minute I look at the price tag on any pair of Anthropologie shoes I feel depressed: I don’t have $250 for a pair of heels. Plus, those ten minutes I spend savoring a plate of jamón Serrano will come and go.
Are shoes and food and sleep and thrift stores bad? Of course not! But if I expect those things every day in order to be joyful I am relying on my circumstances to bring me joy. And that kind of joy just won’t last.
What is the key to a joyful day for you?
As I mentioned in question #1, sometimes choice and action are part of being joyful and bringing joy to others. Here are some guidelines that I have found helpful to being joyful each day.
1. Get out – I learned this quickly after having a baby. For some reason, I feel more confident and happy if I daily schedule at least one activity outside of the four walls to my apartment. I put on my make up, brush my hair, and E. and I take to the streets. One day this might mean a trip to the library. Another day it’s a tour of the grocery store. Other days it’s a morning play date. Whatever the day, whatever the weather, I am intentional and we get out of the house. This simple choice results in a major boost of joy.
2. Meditate – I confess that as “doer,” a “mover and a shaker,” this is hard for me. But, I benefit enormously from pausing from my hectic mommy life to sit quietly, (usually during nap time) reading and meditating.I am a Christian, so meditating for me means reading a passage from the Bible and talking through it verse by verse, followed by prayer. (Check out this book on Mindfulness. I read it and completed the exercise. Amazing stuff!)
3. Serve others – There is truly something unique about the joy that comes from serving others. It’s different from the joy I feel when I find a 1950s fur coat at a thrift store.
While I may not have been blessed with enough money to buy all the shoes in the “Anthroplogie” catalogue or the luxury of sleeping eight hours a night, I have been given the gift of time (I’m currently a stay-at-home mom with a baby who loves to go places). So, that has led me to join my church’s meal team. While E. naps, I whip up some lasagna, or bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When she wakes up, we trek across town to make home visits. These visits – often to families I don’t know – have brought me much joy because I have witnessed how something free (my time), together with something tasty (food), with a side of cute baby, bring laughter, sometimes tears, and a hearty conversation that no three-inch heels could ever.
4. Be thankful – I believe we are what we allow our minds to dwell on. And, the more time we spend acknowledging what we have and giving thanks for it, the more joy we cultivate in our hearts and minds. Again, this requires a choice. Although this principle crosses all cultures and religions, I would like to share a quote from the Christian tradition on being thankful. I hope you find it helpful, whatever your walk of life, as you pursue joy:
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Okay, Audrey, so how can I practically “think about such things?” Well, if you’re like me, you are quicker to remember what you don’t have over what you do. A few helpful ways to remember the abundant goodness in you life: journal your thoughts; write them out on post-its and stick them to the bathroom mirror; recite what you’re thankful for as you slip under the covers at night. I think you’ll find that your thankfulness will end in rejoicing.