“Mama, can we go downstairs now?” my little one pipes up at about 5 pm every evening.
“Maybe later. I’m busy,” comes my vague response.
“But, why? Please!! Pleeeeese, mama!” the mini drama queen continues. “You said yesterday we could go. You never take us down to play anymore.”
The pleading, guilt trips and negotiations continue till chores are set aside and mama takes the kids downstairs to our apartment building’s play area.
There’s something to be said about my 6-year-old’s powers of persuasion (Other than the fact that she’ll make a gifted lawyer someday.) She knows what makes her happy and she pursues it. Doggedly.
Fast forward 20 years and I wonder if she'll end up doing what many women do – put what brings us joy on the back burner.
We postpone getting that cup of coffee with a friend. Our bookmark stays on the same page of the novel for months on end. We never get down to taking that art class or swim lessons. We have no time to go on a hike or to write that story or take a nap or do what puts a spring in our step. Our to-dos and have-tos crowd out our want-tos.
I got to thinking about what brings me joy or a sense of well being. Not big bucket-list, backpack-through-Europe kind of deals; just the little things that lift my heart. My very own Joy List.
Simple joys that I could be part of my every day: Netflix with the husband, reading my Bible, filling the house with smells of baked yummyness, writing a thoughtful or funny article, good conversations over coffee, getting some fresh air, cuddles with the kids, watering the plants.
Those things shouldn’t be too difficult to squeeze into my week, right? Somehow, though, it seems easier to do yoga in a straitjacket than take the time to feed my soul. Usually, the “I’m-too-busy” syndrome gets in the way. But let’s take a page from the book of one of the busiest people in history. If we’re talking busy schedule and heavy responsibility – like, the whole entire world - then Jesus would be the perfect example. And, guess what? Jesus took the time to take care of himself. He took a nap on a boat (during a storm no less). He grilled some fish on the beach. He had mini getaways to hang out with his Father. He played with kids.
Sure, my family needs me. But they want a rested, happy me, not a snappy me that’s depleted and harried. Like they say in the airline demos: Put on your safety mask first before you assist a child. Here’s a well-researched scientific fact – you’re of little assistance if you’re passed out. (Lightbulb moment!). So, let's kiss the guilt goodbye. Sometimes, the precursor to productivity is pleasure.
Another reason for nixing my joy list is that I may not feel like it. I may not feel like getting out of my PJs and going for a walk. But feelings are not a compass for what I should or shouldn’t do. Whhaa? I know, right? For years, we’ve heard in movies and books to go with our gut, to do it if it feels good. Conversely, if you don’t feel like it, don’t. But here’s to following what I know is my passion - even if I’m completely indifferent about it at the moment. We’re intentional about fixing dinner for the family, about work deadlines, about sending the kids to school on time. Why not be intentional about what brings us joy?
Here’s something else I’m working on: sometimes, you have to say no in order to say yes. Yikes. That’s a hard one for me, as I know it is for many women out there. But, “I can’t” is not an indictment of my character. It’s not going to destroy a relationship that’s worth keeping. There’s freedom in the word “no,” and I’m slowly wrapping my mind around that.
I’m not advocating being selfish and self-centered. Life happens. A sick child needs my attention. A friend needs to talk. There’s a deadline at work. If we’re not flexible with our joy list then we miss the very point of it.
Yes, I'm a self-declared list maker. I love checking off my grocery lists, my to-do lists and weekly menu lists. I'm going to add one more. My Joy List. And I hope to get it all checked off. I want to be as intentional as my 6-year-old in getting my play time on.
What's on your Joy List today?
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