The Two Handles of Life: Joy and Gratitude

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Joy... joy is one of my theme words for 2017. 

Honest truthful… I haven’t experienced much joy this year. As I write this, I’m listening to my Jim Brickman Pandora station and a beautiful piano rendition of “To Make You Feel My Love” floats through the air and I get a lump in my throat. Tears find their way to my eyes. Sadness and grief creep into this space and I’m allowing myself to feel it. No… I’m forcing myself to feel it.

There’s something missing. What’s the missing ingredient? Outwardly, I’m a happy person but harnessing joy… real, authentic, unfeigned joy has eluded me.  As I contemplate joy, it isn’t something that should be chased. Like riding west... trying to catch the sun before it sets... you’ll never reach it.

Joy, rather, finds it’s way into the cracks of life, the everyday moments, just waiting to be discovered and savored. 

When we fill our lives full, there are no cracks where joy can seep in.  When scarcity is the mindset, the default is ‘not enough’. Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough sleep. Not enough courage. Not enough of me to go around. When I go to bed ruminating that I didn’t accomplish enough and get out of bed focused on a never-ending to-do list… constantly chasing… there is no opportunity for joy to fit into an already crowded life.

Gratitude is missing.  Not simply having an attitude of gratitude but practicing gratitude. Deliberate. Mindful. Intentional gratitude.

The practice of gratitude demands two things of us: stillness and an abundance mindset. So today I choose to stop, to notice the cracks in my life, to seek out where I’m blessed, and invite joy in.

In this moment, I am grateful for:

1. Small moments of connection with my children - My kids are 15 and 12 and I’m losing them to activities, their friends, and even Netflix and PS4. I’m losing them to the draw of independence and the stage in life when your mom isn’t cool, even if she does ride a motorcycle. So I hold close the good night hugs, laughs around the dinner table, and the “Mom… can I ask you a question?”

2. Friday night date night – Every Friday night, my husband and I meet friends at a local hangout to welcome in the weekend. We have two-fers, answer trivia questions, devour the worlds-best tater tots, and tell stories about the week’s events. We then retreat to our friends’ home to play cards (men against the women) and we’re home by 10 pm. Yep… it’s a sign we’re getting old but I look forward to something so mundane and ordinary. It’s comfortable. I’m thankful for this time with our friends.

3. Women who are paving the way – I admire so many women like Brené Brown, Sally Krawcheck, Molly Fletcher, and Effie Hotchkiss (of course) who are being themselves unapologetically and boldly showing up in the world. It gives me the courage to do the same.

4. Artists who love their fans – I was a Garth fanatic in the late 80's/early 90’s and to be able to see him perform in 2017 (like he was never gone) was a highlight of my year! Even better, I got to share his amazing concert experience with my daughter who now is a 2nd generation Garth fanatic. Despite his wrestle-with-life, thought-provoking lyrics, I’ve always loved his quote “You can always smell the roses when you’re running with them in your hand.” From a man who leaves enough cracks in life to let the joy come in… Thank you, Garth.

5. People who have earned the right to speak into my life (and they do) - I hope you know who you are. I couldn’t do this thing called life without you.

6. Winding roads and breath-taking destinations (And I’m not just talking about motorcycle rides.) - You can bet that I won’t pass up a curvy road that promises a thrilling journey but I’m learning to appreciate and respect the challenges of this ride called life. I love the quote by Paulo Coelho “Straight roads do not make skillful drivers.”

7. You. Yep… you. I’m grateful that you would even consider learning beside me. I’m thankful when you share with me where I’ve inspired you, whether it be in a Facebook comment, in an email, in a quick conversation, or while we're having coffee together. It’s my currency... my salary. It’s my validation for pushing through my own self-doubt and vulnerability to create something valuable.  Thank you for letting me know that I’m making a difference in your life.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I believe we ride through life gripping two handles… one of gratitude, and one of joy.  As we roll on the throttle of gratitude, we can press and lean into joy which makes this ride all worth it! 

Meet me over on my Facebook page and share what you are grateful for!