I was hoping to award a giant A at the end of my first week on this five-week plan for finding joy in the everyday. I was so pumped.
I can only manage a limp C, because my plan was tested, and I faltered.
I’m not a superstitious person, but have you ever noticed how sometimes, right after you announce JOY! in bold italic caps in your life, bad stuff happens?
I made a public declaration in front of 473,742 other WordPress bloggers last Sunday, about starting this five-week plan for finding joy, and the week started so well.
1. When seeking joy in the everyday, flowers always work.
So do outdoor cafes, strolling downtown, feasting at an Indian buffet, and saying Hi! to strangers — we’re all so friendly in Portland when the sun shines.
2. Saying thanks to everyone turns strangers into new acquaintances.
In my daily routine of practicing lovingkindness, I’m trying more often to acknowledge strangers, especially if they’ve done something nice for me. So, I thanked the new handyman at our apartment complex for all the hard work he does to keep this place up. He looked astonished, mumbled something about “that’s what they pay me for.” He looked a little frightened by the sudden interest in his work, then he relaxed and smiled. We exchanged names. Days later, we had a happy conversation about all the wonderful flowers around here.
3. Seek joy everyday through all your senses, and it will come.
Daily walks are often the best way to puzzle over my writing. I’ve been practicing using all my senses on these walks to be more creative on a long writing project. (I’ve resisted the call of ice cream so far for the tasting sensation.) But I’m looking at the world more carefully, sniffing it out like one of the many neighborhood dogs. There is such joy in this, it has become a daily routine: My writer’s brain, being retrained like a puppy, now expects to discover something on every walk, whether it’s new flowers I can’t identify, another dog-and-owner combo I greet, or just the scent of spring showers. Sniffing at the world like a puppy works wonders for discovering joy everywhere.
4. Let everything else go.
Seeking joy sometimes — often — always? — means letting go. Practicing lovingkindness, I’ve been letting go of a lot of old baggage, and working on forgiveness. I’ve been trying to spread kindness and forgiveness, and spoke in public recently about human failings and my journey to forgive someone imprisoned for attempting to kill me. I asked everyone to take a card, write the name of someone they most wanted to forgive, and place it over their heart. I suggested they take the card home, to share/not share, and to ponder whether forgiveness is possible. I noted that forgiving ourselves is often the toughest. This speech, at a church in Canada, was so well-received that I put the experience at the top of my “finding joy in everyday” list, and booked more speeches.
5. Finding joy in everyday means paying close attention.
A downtown walk filled me with such joy that I took pictures of everything. I struggled with close-ups, but managed one shot of one tulip in a petal-strewn garden that caught my attention. Plum and cherry tree blossoms were floating everywhere, creating a shower of petals, and impromptu paths pretty enough for a spring bride.
6. Finding joy in everyday isn’t always a walk in the park.
Little Miss Sunshine doesn’t live here. My daily joy practice crashed and burned near the end of the week when I learned that someone was trying to manipulate my parents — elders on their own journey for reclaiming joy. This discovery was followed by anger, pain and sorrow that disturbed my sleep, my writing, my relationships, and, #*&!, my determination to find joy in everyday. I missed a few days because I was too hurt to want joy. Or so I imagined.
7. Finding joy is often where you least expect it, yet often where you most expect it.
A family conference was called: There was joy in the relief that our parents are safe, yet bothered.
Neighborly kindness prevailed. Plane tickets were booked to gather siblings from afar. There was joy in knowing that so many can come together to protect the vulnerable. There is always joy in sharing, even if it’s restrained by life events.
I resumed my writing. That always makes me joyful.
I made an Amtrak reservation. I’m returning to my other home, chastened.
Booking the trip online, I used every keystroke with careful and pressured determination, as a lesson in breathing deeply and knowing that joy is in everyday.
I just have to search within to find it.
NEXT SUNDAY: Another update, Week 2 of my 5-week plan for finding joy in the everyday.