This morning I sat on the blue rug in my classroom with three little boys. Guilty, they waited for my final verdict, hoping for a pardon. I asked one, “Why did you push Little Girl on the playground?”
Pause. I could see the wheels turning in his head.
“Because,” he finally answered, “she roared at me like a lion and I thought she was a weel lion.”
“Little Boy,” I corrected firmly, “You know she is not a real lion. You do know that, right? There is a difference between what is real and what is not real,” I said, disbelievingly.
“No,” he insisted. “I thought she was weel.”
He looked at me insistently while his two accomplices barely flinched. They were working out what creature they could devise for Little Girl to be when the time for their grilling came.
It has been quite a day, or as we say sometimes at school, “whadda day.” If a travelling vaudeville troupe were calling for auditions in my neck of the woods, I’d be the first to sign up–surely it would be calmer than this. As it is, I hardly know where to begin unraveling the mysteries hidden inside the five-year-old brain.
My own little pumpkin, now five, was playing play-doh quietly at the table when I came in the door. I could see her mood was a bit blue, so I asked how her day was.
She reported a litany of grievances she had with a couple of children from her daycare. I gave her a hug and asked, “Why do you think they were mean to you?”
She looked at me with the most serious of expressions and then matter-of-factly replied, “Because . . . they’ve got sin.”
So, I guess she has them pegged.
I have just come downstairs from tucking Littlest One in bed. She would not go to sleep alone this evening, so I laid down with her and held her tiny hand until she drifted off. While she peacefully slept, cheeks plump and hair framing her face, I thought of the question she asked just before she drifting off, “Mama, what did you do today?”
I could not bring myself to answer. What did I do today? Images blurred behind me like a streak of black ink poured from a fountain pen.
My days have been challenging lately, and today, a few unforeseen events seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Discipline issues, work challenges, parenting dilemmas, relational breakdowns, insecurity, insensitivity, disappointment . . . you name it. It all came flying at me today. And at the end of the day, here I am wondering this: Is there really any joy to be found? Am I fooling myself with a pursuit of joy which cannot be found?
I almost said it today: I hate joy. The very idea of it taunts me in the midst of my pain. “Feel joy! Feel joy!” it laughs at me. The pursuit of joy is the search for gold at the end of the rainbow–the elusive, the hidden.
Then I heard a small voice reminding me yet again, for I am a slow learner, “Joy is not a voice, nor is it a feeling. It is not a figment of imagination. It is a choice.” So I will persevere until I find joy again and claim it as my own.
With this reclaimed perspective I can say if there were ever a time to feel joy, it is now. I know this in my heart of hearts, and so I write to experience it again. Joy; the ability to rise above difficult circumstances and therein feel contentment. Gratitude; winning out over disappointment. Joy; inner peace that requires nothing from without and everything from within. Joy; Content with who I am, where I am, and what I am at this very moment in time.
Will I ever know it for sure?
Joy. I almost felt it had slipped from my grasp. Like sand between fingers, it slips away. How easily we confuse joy with pleasure, but the latter does not preclude the former. I can seek out joy even when I feel anything but happy. It begins with a choice: I choose joy today. I refuse to be robbed of this moment. I choose joy.
My children serve as daily reminders, they are four precious reasons for choosing joy. It is my legacy for them, this pursuit of joy. It is the example I leave for them to follow. What more valuable of legacies could I ever leave than to instill in them a desire to pursue and know true joy?And again, I choose it.
Photos submitted by Lori Gard.
QUESTION: How do you find the strength to bounce back from dark moments? Where do you draw strength to embrace joy over disappointment? If this has been a challenge for you as well, ask yourself this: Why not choose joy? What is holding me back from choosing joy today? How can I remove that obstacle from my path so I might pursue joy?
CHALLENGE: Name the people and things that bring you joy. Speak the words out loud. Hold those treasures in your heart. Make finding joy a purpose and a choice rather than a fruitless pursuit.