You’ve seen it plastered around the world and on your screens. I know I have. It’s a novel idea. An idea which aims to empower us and make us happy. Everyone wants to be in control of their life and feelings. They want to be happy and love their life. We would all love to choose joy, but it isn’t as easy as the quotes want us to believe.
I Can’t Choose Just One Feeling
Life is full of complex emotions. They very rarely come to us in an orderly single-file fashion. Instead, situations we face are filled with conflicting and smooshed-up emotions. We feel happy, sad, and mad but we also feel emotions like nervcited (nervously exicted) and angity (angry pity). We experience glarrow (glad sorrow), desohope (hope in a desolate place), charenity (serenity in chaos), and thousands of other nameless compound feelings I haven’t made up names for yet.
Shoving them all aside so we can simply choose joy robs us of the tapestry of the human experience. Also, it’s impossible for many people, myself included.
Is joy all that great if we don’t have moments of despair as contrast in our life? I am not sure we actually enjoy joy if we don’t know what the opposite feels like. Does joy alone help us to process great loss in a healthy manner? Can joy single handedly cure depression and mend broken hearts? If choosing joy, and only joy, were really possible I suppose it could do all those things in a very monotone manner.
Of course, if you’re someone who struggles with finding happiness, failing to choose joy as easily as everyone else feels like just one more failure in your life. The exact opposite of what the sentiment means. I’m like that. I can try so hard to choose to be filled with joy and gratefulness and all the good feels in spite of difficult circumstances but it doesn’t actually change things. Then I am sure I am doing it wrong. Which leads me further into my shame and depression. Which then leads to me eating way too much ice cream and needing new pants. The absolute opposite of joy.
Stop Choosing, Start Looking
Instead of “choosing” joy, let’s start looking for joy. Just a tiny little bit each day.
Looking implies we may not find it easily or right away. I’m still looking for a set of car keys I lost when we moved back in 2014. I haven’t found them yet, but I might. I look for hair ties at least four times per day. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is since I own 4.7 billion of them but I always have to hunt for them. I always find one eventually. Looking is so much better than choosing. It’s less pressure.
In theory, you should see one joy per day. I really think that is generally an achievable thing. We had a terrible night last weekend filled with nightmares for our daughter and little sleep for me. At the end of the night, we saw a sunrise so bright and colorful it filled the whole sky out our window. It was full or purple, our favorite color. I could not choose joy in that moment as a tired, overworked, worried mom but I found a moment to smile about.
Some days I find a huge joy or multiple joys. A cozy fire and happy family on Christmas. Everything at Disney World which makes my heart want to explode with joy. My favorite meal surrounded by my favorite people. Spending a whole day reading a book. Warm baths, good beer, long naps, salon day, game nights, owls, my people, my kids and zillions of little things.
Some days, I find very few. Some days joy is celebrating the end of a very difficult day. Making it through something you thought would destroy you can be a strange joy but it still counts.
Choosing Joy is Hard
I cannot choose joy and it is ok. I am ok. You are ok. We are doing our best to get through the strange journey of life. We may be on top of the world one day then lost in our lowest lows the next but we are doing our best. You are doing your best. Choosing joy is not a fair expectation for everyday living.
Just remember to look for joy each day.