During the holiday season, the word joy seems to find it’s way to me often. Last night I was teaching my five year old son how to spell it, and then trying to explain the meaning of the word when he asked. How do you explain the word joy to a five year old?
Especially when you are a grown up that hasn’t felt pure joy in seemingly forever?
I felt like I should be turning that question back to him. I don’t remember buddy- can you remind me what joy feels like?
But then I remembered that happiness and joy are all about perspective. Only comparison is the theif of joy, and if I keep letting myself compare my life to those around me, or to what I see on social media, or to anything else in the world, then I will never feel joy again.
Happiness and joy can be found everywhere, we just need to know where to look.
In January, my husband and I had both made a goal to get healthier this year. We took up running to get our bodies moving and in shape, and signed up for our first 5k race in April as a goal to work towards. Along the course of the year we purchased a treadmil, running shoes, new workout gear, water bottles, heaphones, and all kinds of fancy things to help us reach our goal.
My husband did amazing. This year he has run several 5k’s, a 10k, and even a half marathon.
I, on the other hand, am currently waiting on x-ray results of my knee. Back before that very first 5k of the year, I almost fell off of the tradmill one day when my knee decided it just didn’t want to work. Then came the head aches. Then my arms had some issues, the other leg had it’s own agenda… you get the idea. I am not a runner.
Going through all of this, while watching my husband excel and pursue his dream was really hard. Comparing myself to him during this process had me feeling really depressed, and rather than feeling the joy and happiness for him acheiving his goals, I was mad at myself for failing to reach mine.
While sitting in a coffee shop on the morning of his half marathon race, I was writing away in my journal when I had a realization. Even though I was not able to be running alongside my husband like I had originally planned, I could still be proud of his accomplishments. I could still feel happiness for him. I could still be happy for other things in my life that were not related to this goal. I needed to stop comparing myself and my dreams to his, and realize that we are not the same, and our timelines are not going to be the same.
Maybe I will never be a runner. Maybe that was just never meant to be for me. And that is ok. My dreams needed to change and be re-evaluated to align to what was right for me, and not to someone else. Sure, it would have been great if running with my husband could have been something we could do together, but maybe we can stick to walks for now. Or maybe I can talk him into something else more my speed- like crochet!
So after my fourth cup of coffee, I packed up my journal, and got in my 10,000 steps before 10 am while I walked up and down the beautiful street that held the finish line of the half marathon. I cheered on the finishers of the race as they crossed. I was amazed watching these athletes- how incredibly hard they must train, and how disiplined they must be to train their bodies to run like they do. When my husband texted me along his route when he hit a rough patch, I immediated wrote back words of encouragement.
You can do this!
Don’t stop moving. You are doing an amazing job!!
And then he turned a corner and was running toward the finish line. I can’t even explain the joy I felt as I watched him cross that finish line. I was so darn proud of him for not giving up, and for sticking with it, even when things got hard.
When you stop comparing your life and your goals to others, and focus on how far you have come from where you used to be, you realize that there is joy in your journey.
If you focus on the good things in your life, you are more likely to see the good around you on a regular basis. It’s just like when you buy a new car. You don’t realize how many people drive the type of car you just bought until you bring it home. Once you start driving around town, you notice your same car all over! You were never looking for the type of car you are driving now before you owned it, so you never noticed how many were on the roads until you had one of your own.
Happiness and gratitude work the same way. The more you practice it, the more see you see it and look for it in your life, the more it shows up.
This holiday season, I urge anyone that reads this to focus on finding five things they are grateful for every single day. Write them down, think about them, say them outloud at the dinner table, and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Spark conversation with others about what they are grateful for.
And every single day, find something that makes you happy. Each day, we can find something that brings joy into our lives. The more we go looking for joy, the more we will find it surrounding us on a daily basis. Remeber what brought you joy and happiness as a child. This time of year is the perfect time to recall those moments, find ways to relive them again, and find ways to bring that joy to others as well.