Have you ever met someone who oozes positivity? Not the over-bubbly, Pollyanna-type…those people are obnoxious, but just someone who quietly finds happiness in almost every situation?
I find myself drawn to people like this. I seek them out. Their positive attitudes are calming and contagious.
I am probably attracted to these people because positivity is not my natural state.
While I’m not a pessimist, I’m definitely a realist. I’ve also been a mom for nine years, which means that my mom-brain automatically considers what could go wrong in any situation. On top of that, sarcasm is my native language and my favorite way to cope. I also admit to being a bit more judge-y than I should be. All of that means that while I’m not the Evil Queen, I’m not Snow White either.
Back in August I was challenged to choose one word and focus on it daily for six months, with the goal of bringing more of that chosen element into my life.
I had just gone back to work. I was newly re-introduced to the life all moms juggle: Plan dinner, meet the needs of spouse, children, co-workers or strangers, shuttle kids, meet the electrician at the house promptly at 5:00, do laundry, plan schedules, sign forms and still hope to have some energy left by 7:00.
I was already busy and stressed, and it was only August.
I see the effects this life has on those I love. Moods are contagious and when I am stressed or worn out, so is my husband. When I am snippy and sarcastic, so are my girls. When the speaker at a meeting made the one-word-challenge, I could have chosen words like peace, patience, order. But, because I didn’t need one more thing to think about, I just picked the same word the speaker gave as his example: Joy.
I thought, “I like being happy. Let’s go with that.”
JOY. Where do I find joy when the alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. and I tossed and turned until 2:00? Where is the joy in the child who takes forty-five minutes to eat three bites of dinner? Where’s the joy when I’m trying to focus on work for tomorrow, dinner should have been in the oven thirty minutes ago, my phone is buzzing and my children are bickering?
This was not an easy process for me. Granted, I could have been more mindful and spent fifteen minutes meditating on the word joy each morning. I did not.
I could have written the word in places where I would see it during my day. I did not do this either.
Basically, I thought about the challenge every few days. Sometimes during the quiet ten minute drive to work. More often when I was running around yelling “Everyone find your shoes! We need to be out the door in two minutes!” I would pause for a millisecond and think, “I’m not very joyous right now.”
But, slowly, those thoughts turned to “I’m thankful that my girls are old enough to get their own shoes on.” or “I’m happy that we have an extra forty minutes tonight for you to finish your three bites of food.” (Ok, I never actually thought that, but I you get the idea.)
The other night I experienced the change this challenge had worked on me. I was hungry and tired. We sat down to eat dinner and when my husband put a small strip of fish on my plate I sarcastically commented “Is that all I get?” Then my daughter took a bite of her fish and instantly burst into tears. Not the normal “I don’t want to eat my food” crying, but “The fish is so spicy it’s burning my lips” crying. I took one bite and realized that my husband had covered the fish in some sort of super-atomic rub, rendering it inedible and leaving our hungry family to eat brown rice and steamed veggies for dinner.
The thoughts running through my head went something like this: I planned a healthy meal, worked all day, ran kids around and then came home to have my husband try and get creative without knowing what sriracha is…Who doesn’t know what sriracha is?!? I’m famished and all I have for dinner is brown rice and flavorless veggies.
But I paused. I realized that I could choose anger, or I could choose joy. I chose joy.
We spent the next twenty minutes laughing about Daddy’s creative cooking and the Atomic-Sriracha fish. We all finished our food in the normal amount of time. We all finished our evening on a high note.
The six months have passed. Have I morphed into Snow White, skipping about joyously singing while covered in small forrest creatures? No.
Do I still entirely loose my cool at least once a week? For sure.
This is definitely a process. For me, joy is laughter, and thanks-giving and looking for the positive in difficult situations. Now I am more likely to stop and look for humor where I would have only complained before. I give thanks for the ability to laugh instead of yell, and I marvel at the huge effect even small changes in me can have on my family.
I’m making this same challenge to YOU. Think of one word, one element you want to bring into your life. Meditate on it each day. Write it on your bathroom mirror…Or don’t. Just think about it in your infrequent quiet moments.
I am starting a new six months and you know what? I still choose JOY.