Tuesday, June 14, 2022

J is for Joy

 My mother's name was Joy, and I'm happy to say that it was fitting. 

When I think back on my mom, as I often do, I remember joyous things. Warm welcomes, family dinners (even though she hated to cook), pride over our accomplishments, and a fierce loyalty to everyone she loved. 

There were definitely times when we butted heads and, although I love to organize and even write about it, I will never love cleaning the way she did. It took me a long time to understand the logic of installing white carpets in
the living room and dining room and then declaring them off-limits -- something I swore I'd never do. But, now that my daughter is grown and has a place of her own, I get it. After years of buying practical furnishings that would withstand kids and carelessness, you reach a point where you want nice things even if it means threatening family members with excommunication if they ruin them.

Okay, that's a bit exaggerated. But, I get it now, Mom.

When I teach positive psychology and we talk about the power of positive emotions, it's rarely hard for me to access my own because I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a family where love was never in doubt. There was plenty of Catholic guilt to go around, that's for sure, but we never doubted that we were loved, something my dad makes sure we still know today. 

And love begets joy.

Even in my sixties (early sixties, thank you very much), when something wonderful or terrible happens, she's still the first one I want to call. I miss her voice, although I can still hear it sometimes -- like when I typed the first sentence in this paragraph. I paused, as I heard her tell me a lady never reveals her true age. I was married and a mother myself before I knew my mother's true age. In fact, the way she counted her age, I used to tease her that one of these days I was going to be older than she was. 

I'm writing this with tissues handy because although these memories -- brought on by a simple letter of the alphabet! -- make me happy, they also make me a bit tearful. That's the thing about joy -- or Joy -- it echoes most loudly when we are keenly aware of its absence. We can appreciate the beauty of positive emotions most profoundly when we have lived long enough to know that joy and sorrow offset one another. 

Who brings you joy? Take a moment today and make sure they know it. And then revel in it for a bit. Because life without joy is a lot less fun.

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