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What if joy matters?*

I’m generally an optimist, but I often find that in moments where everything is FINE, if not GREAT, my mind finds worries to perseverate on. Are my kids going to be okay? (usually at the top of the list), Do we have anything healthy for dinner (or any dinner at all), Is it possible the tickle in my throat is Covid? Isn’t it wrong to feel happy when people are suffering? Some neuropsychologists call this the negativity bias. It’s a way the mind trains itself to pay attention to what might go wrong as a means of protection from those possibilities.

This week we made it to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. Being at the beach is one of the most pleasurable experiences in my world. The beach we are at exceeded my expectations- the vibrant aqua colors of the Sea of Cortez, the satisfyingly course yet smooth texture of the sand, the proximity of our RV to the beach, the permeating warmth of the sun accompanied by pleasing breeze.

We are with a group of other families traveling fulltime and both kids are in heaven. J is digging in the sand all day with buddies. Tucker is roaming around outside with a teen posse reminiscent of all teen posses ever. There are tacos, tasty beverages, interesting people to talk with and even some rare alone time for me and Justin.

Despite so much loveliness, I continue to notice my mind veering off into thoughts that take me out of the joy of now. What right do I have to relax and just be happy amidst so much suffering in the world? Shouldn’t I be doing something more meaningful with my life right now?

I don’t have an answer to this question, but wise people (including my husband in his most recent blog post) remind me that the most precious resource we have is our presence. When my mind turns to worrying, I am not present to what is. This is a disservice to myself and those I care about. Part of our intention of this journey is to figure out what is next in our lives. We are trusting that if we pay attention to what is now, the next right thing will emerge.

We are finding value in going slow in a culture that glorifies going fast. We try to focus on small victories- a great conversation with a kiddo or a fully appreciated sunrise instead of our typical work accomplishments.

What if I try on practicing embodying joy without guilt or shame? Coninue practicing savoring a moment. A day. A life. Allow a the sun to sink in, soothe and heal. To allow this peace to touch those around me. A spiritual teacher of mine shared that the body is like a glove, and the spirit is the animating force, like a hand giving shape to the glove. This image helps me fill my ‘glove’ with whatever beauty and joy is right now.

When evaluating my life choices, I think of my ancestors, the thousands of generations who survived so that I could exist. I don’t know what any of them would think of my life, but when I am happy, I pause to remember those survivors who went on living and loving so that my being could come to fruition. So that I can savor the ripe fruit that is life. And I hope the generations that come behind me get to experience more joy and fulfillment than I could imagine.

Epilogue- I wrote this a week ago, before the ‘teen posse’ shared what we are pretty sure is Covid with our household (RVhold?). We are all doing okay, but get to continue practicing patience and presence in the less enjoyable moments too.

*Thank you to my friend RS for the title suggestion 🙂

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