Do you know Joy? Do you know the difference between Happiness and Joy? Do you have real Joy in your life? My sincerest hope is that you can answer yes to all of these questions. I think we all know at least one joyful person. We may even hate them for it. If you can’t identify a joyful person in your life, and you do not consider yourself to be joyful, I would like to be that person for you because Joy follows me. But before I tell you my story, I’d like to address the questions that I asked.
Do you know Joy? Not your favorite Aunt Joy. Not the barista down at the Starbucks, and not that cute blue-haired pixie of a girl that Disney says lives in us. (Or is it?) Joy is internal. There is a recipe for joyfulness and I’m going to share it with you.
1. Recognize that Joy is possible for everyone regardless of circumstances.
2. Recognize Joy in yourself and identify what sustains your Joy.
3. Seek opportunities to fuel your Joy. (More is more here.)
4. Allow Joy to live in you. Embrace it and commit to it.
There is a distinct difference between Joy and Happiness. Happiness is momentary. It often times is created or even purchased. You can be having a happy day, get some disparaging news, and bam, happy day is over. In the very next moment, you can receive a call that you’ve won the lottery and bam, happy is back. Happiness is influenced by moments. I’m not saying that this is bad. (That would be ludicrous.) I’m saying Happiness is not Joy. Joy is internal and owned. Even devastating news has it’s work cut out for itself to extinguish internal Joy.
Are you Happy or Joyful? If you’re lucky, you are both! But Joy comes from your soul. Joy is held in the core of who you are. The challenging part is that it takes effort and commitment to maintain it, but the beautiful gift of Joy is that no external source can extinguish it. Only you can. So as long as you protect it, you get to keep it and enjoy (pun intended) it’s perpetual stream of gifts.
Now that we’ve established what Joy is. Allow me to share with you how Joy actually follows me.
I think of myself as a positive person. I look for the good in others. I strive to surround myself with things and people that bring me Joy. I fuel my faith, which is personally my greatest Joy builder. But like everyone, I have faced hard times. I’ve talked openly about the death of my father and the complicated birth of our first child. I think it is universally agreed upon that those two experiences alone would be considered “hard”. Although I was definitely NOT Happy while living through them, I was lucky to hold on to my internal Joy. But was it luck? I think I’d call it more of a commitment. I say this, because I’m not sure I’ve always been a Joyful person. I am now. I work on my Joy daily and I will NEVER go back.
Three years ago, during the holiday season, I was very preoccupied by the deterioration of my father’s health. Advent has always been my favorite time of the year. It’s kind of my Super Bowl, but this particular year, I just couldn’t…. I couldn’t do any of it. I was having a particularly sad day, filled with worry when I walked outside to my car to run an errand.
For some reason, in our neighborhood, there is a sort of wind tunnel that, when active, blows everyone’s loose trash into our yard. On this particularly windy day, I walked out to my car to find more trash in the yard. As I customarily do, I gathered up the newest bits of trash to be tossed. To my surprise, the last piece of paper that I picked up was an ice cream cone wrapper that said, “JOY”.
I think I literally laughed out loud when I saw it. It was a true gift to me. It was a physical reminder of “JOY”. I was so incredibly moved by that message that I had picked up off the ground that I couldn’t’ bear to throw it away. I framed that little wrapper and I have it displayed in my bedroom. It is a constant reminder to me, that even in hard times, Joy can always be with me.
Months went by. My father passed and life moved on. As I approached the first Christmas season without my dad, I began to physically feel the sadness and loss. It was especially hard at Christmas that year because he had died right after Christmas the previous year and he had loved the holidays so much.
I was having a particularly sad day this past December and decided to go outside to try to literally walk off my mood. Again, it was a windy day in our ‘hood. As I walked down the street I heard a noise behind me. The wind was blowing a Styrofoam cup down the street behind me as I walked. I noticed it, but I ignored it and just kept walking.
Oddly, I didn’t walk around the block on my usual route. For some reason (that I simply can’t recall), I got to the corner and I turned around to walk home, retracing my steps. Once again, I began hearing that Styrofoam cup being blown down the street. Once again, behind me! It had followed me down the street in my original direction and now it was following me again, going the opposite way. I got so irritated by the noise that I rolled my eyes, huffed, and chased that darn cup down to pick it up and throw it away.
When I picked up the cup, to my complete shock, I read that fateful word once again. Say it with me now, “JOY”. This “JOY” cup had actually followed me down the street going in both directions. Well if that wasn’t a message, then there have never been messages. And who cares? To me, it was loud and clear and that is the most important part of the story.
Joy follows me. And I allow it to follow me. I recognize that Joy lives in me and I know that I am not just Happy, but Joyful. I literally pray every day that those that I love and care about experience real Joy in their lives. I am grateful for the gentle reminders that I have been given (and even the smacks upside the head) to continue to live my life Joyfully.