Don’t Postpone Joy

I have difficulty with time and place.  That is, I think there is a time and place for everything.  Well, not everything, mostly just those experiences that bring me joy. And the time and place for that is often somewhere in the future.

Let me give you an example. A friend and I went to a craft store this weekend for some holiday supplies. (Yes, I brought my list!) When we got home, she immediately opened the supplies and began playing with them. I, on the other hand began cleaning the kitchen. After a few minutes I forced myself to stop what I was doing and join her. Instantly, I was having much more fun and doing exactly what I wanted to be doing in that moment. The funny thing is, had I gone to the craft store by myself and bought those items, I would have come home, put them away, cleaned the kitchen, then moved on to laundry or answering emails or some other sort of work. Somewhere around December 20th I would have looked at the stuff again, felt like it was time to pull it all out and would have promptly realized that I no longer had time to just sit and play because I had too much to do to prep for Christmas.

Despite the fact I do that sort of thing all the time, I generally have fun whatever I am doing. Maybe that’s part of the problem – since I can find something to enjoy in most situations, I find it hard to stop and pursue something simply because it makes me happy. I think many of us struggle with this concept.  We have so many things on our plates already, there better be a compelling reason to stop working and do something that has no other intrinsic value but to bring us personal joy. And yet, shouldn’t that be the compelling reason in and of itself?

I have a bumper sticker I picked up at a small toy store years ago.  It says simply “Don’t Postpone Joy.” I try to remember that.

What joy are you postponing and how can you bring a little bit of it into your life today?

Red Car

My four-year-old daughter spontaneously made up a game several months ago.  It’s called “Red Car.”  The rules are simple; keep your eyes out for cars (or trucks– she’s rather liberal with her interpretations) and when you see one, call out “red car!”  We don’t usually keep score, there’s no winner or loser, although occasionally she and her older sister will fight about who called a particular red car first. The game often begins without warning, someone notices a red car and calls out and then that draws the attention of everyone else and we all start playing.

And you know what?  There are a lot more red cars out on the streets than I ever realized.

It’s a funny game.  It stays with me for a long time after we’ve played a few rounds.  I’ll be driving in the car by myself and notices the red cars around me.  I’ll be walking in a parking lot, and without even realizing that I’m doing it, suddenly hear the voice inside my head whisper “red car.” Even when my conscious brain isn’t playing, my subconscious can’t help but join in the fun.

What my daughter has so wisely discovered in her own way is when we set an intention to focus on something, that’s exactly what we find. Once we decide to look for something in our lives, everything else fades into the background as our brains instantly sort things into two categories: “no, not that,” and “yes, that’s it!” The “no’s” are instantly discarded and the brain wastes no energy on even remembering anything about the sheer quantity of items that don’t fit the parameters we’ve established.

It’s a fun game.  I suggest trying all kinds of different variations of this game. Find as many acts of kindness as you can in a day, be open to discovering how much beauty is around you, notice how many little ways you get closer to your goals each and every day. My favorite variation is to find the serendipity in my life- those random connections among seemingly unrelated people or events that seem to converge in almost magical ways.

You probably play this game in some form or another most days and don’t ever realize it. “Mondays are terrible,” you say and then you spend all day finding supporting evidence.  You proclaim, “Nobody wants what I sell,” and then all you see are the people who aren’t interested in your services while the ones who really want what you have to offer slip under the radar. “Who’ll want to marry me,” you stew as the woman behind you in line for coffee wishes that you’d turn around so she could offer you a smile.

This is not about changing your attitude, although that is a common byproduct when you start to look at life intentionally. I am simply asking you to observe the world around you purposefully.  Decide to look through your day with eyes that are searching for one specific thing and then watch how you sort out everything else until you find what you are looking for. Then notice how abundantly it pops up in your life.

And if one day my family drives by you and you hear us yelling “red car,” and laughing like crazy, don’t worry.  It happens all the time.