Thursday, May 19, 2011

Letters From Jane: Feeling Joy

Dear Friends,

My school year is wrapping up and it’s time to turn my attention to something I really love—all this talk about motherhood. I welcome your questions—though I hope you realize that you are wiser than you know and that if you were on a desert island with no internet and no access to any resources, you could find every answer you need. The beauty of the blog, though, is the feeling that you aren’t on an island and that you’re connected to mothers who believe as you do and share your dedication to this work of all works.

We’ve all heard about gratitude journals. The idea is that at the end of the day, when everyone is in bed and the house is quiet, we’re supposed to pause for a few minutes and recall and then list the things that we’re thankful for. It’s a good idea because it gets us looking throughout the day for the little things we’re glad we have. But what if instead of waiting until bedtime, we learned to stop right in the middle of what we’re doing and let joy distill--just let ourselves feel the full pleasure of a moment before moving on to the next one. I think we’re most likely to feel a little surge of joy when we get all of our senses involved—we touch and smell and listen and let it sink in. We see the rain on the window or the wind in the trees outside and we cuddle our baby and smell his hair and squeeze his round little leg and hear his breathing.

And then the secret to pushing that moment of pleasure all the way to joy is to consider that all of this is a gift from a Heavenly Father who loves us and offers us all that he has—not just at the end, but every moment. What if we actually tried to capture, say, ten of those moments every day—what if we didn’t wait for the spectacular—we just paused in the mundane to really see.

I confess that I have little tricks I do to create moments that I love. For example, I like to make cookies and then race to have the kitchen perfectly clean before they come out of the oven. Then I like to sit down with my children in my nice clean kitchen and drink cold milk from mugs with our warm cookies. It’s so prosaic and corny—motherhood….warm cookies and milk—but I love it. I love it every time.

And another one. I love to clean my room—I mean dust and vacuum and polish the mirror and put everything away and then lay there in that nice clean room and read—by myself if it works out, or with my children.

Both of these examples have involved creating order, almost as a prerequisite to joy. And I think you know what I mean when I say that order helps. But if we wait for order or a big bank account or perfect harmony, we’re going to miss out on a lot of joyful moments.

I’ve actually let myself feel joy when everyone is crying at once and there are toys everywhere and the TV is blaring. It’s just so chaotic that it’s really funny. And I love the feeling that I can regain control. I have the power to make everyone in this room happy—one by one –and to turn off the TV and put on some music and rally the troops in a new direction.

One of my best no-fail methods of feeling joy is to shift the focus to an eternal perspective. Sometimes when I’m just talking to one of my children, I’ll let myself see us—sitting here talking on the earth in this tiny moment of eternity. He will only be a fifteen year old boy this one time in the whole scheme of things. And who knows what things will be like when we leave this earth. Will we ever sit in a bedroom with soccer cleats and backpacks and discuss the challenges of life together—his voice cracking every now and then? I doubt it. This is the only now we have. I value it—and him and I feel joy.

I believe the ability to feel joy is a talent that, if practiced becomes natural and just like with any talent, some people seem born with it. If you’re fortunate enough to be one of those, then just carry on. But if you aren’t, stay with it. Your eyes will open more and more. And don’t forget to share your joys with your children. That way, they’ll learn to see them to.

Have an especially good day.