Looking at my drafts file, there are a lot of things I could write about today. But, what’s on my mind is finding joy. Over the last year, this emotion has seemed elusive to me – so elusive that I find myself now consciously looking for it.
Once again, it’s been a time of transition in my life. Last fall I started a new job, a job I’m actually paid to do. It’s been a little bumpier than planned but seems to be working out. During May and early June, I was able to get 425+ elementary children in the school garden to plant! In mid-winter, my husband changed jobs, retiring from the institution that brought us from New York to Wisconsin, and starting at a new locally owned business, still in the field of healthcare but with a different focus and slower pace. May brought a much-anticipated and needed high school graduation for the second of my three sons. Family came from back East to help us celebrate. They were so welcome to be here, but as with any entertaining, some stress ensues. Now, as summer is upon us we are in the midst of travel tournament soccer, with this last weekend being our first trip to the Twin Cities for the All American Cup Tournament. What I thought was going to be a family trip with my youngest and my husband, it turned out not to be. In my head I had thought that this trip would be fun, a chance to be together, relax, enjoy some summer weather, and sports. But, as often happens, life gets in the way. There ended up being a Friday game, an occurrence that threw a wrench into not only our family’s plans but others as well. Many had to divide and conquer to get one child to the cities and also meet obligations elsewhere. What I had wanted to be a fun family experience, just wasn’t – for me. Yes, I enjoyed being with my youngest son and watching him play. But, I realized that I am having trouble finding joy in my daily life. I feel blunted, as if I am going through the motions without much enthusiasm.
Lately, I’ve been working on minimizing my intensities. I am very intense and can be hard to be around. I realize this. So, I’ve taken steps to try to reduce my intense personality traits. Perhaps this is why I am feeling blunted. I am not my true authentic self by controlling these traits. There has also been a great deal of transitions this year, and they are not over yet. This, I know. Neither, my husband, nor I are all that thrilled with our new jobs. Our middle son will leave for college in August – six hours away. He is ready. Perhaps, I am the one who is not. I still see the need to parent. My spouse does not share this view. My youngest has begun to look at colleges (he will be entering his junior year). Retirement and other new chapters loom in front of us. And, I still feel like I haven’t hit my stride professionally or personally. At fifty-something, I am still figuring out what I want to do with my life. I have options, I know that and am grateful for them. I know I need to start putting myself first. That is hard when you haven’t done it in nearly a quarter of a century. I’ve always allowed myself to be at the whim of others, making my schedule fit theirs, working around their needs and delaying the gratification from mine. In hind-sight, it’s done somewhat of a job on me.
Recently, I was given some sage advice by my eldest son, now in graduate school. He told me he thought I should find something to do by myself and for myself that I enjoy. He thought I should find it, do it, and tell no one else about it. Just do it for me, whatever that “it” might be. It is great advice and I have given it a great deal of thought. Today, I am going to start by making a list of the things I enjoy – I know what some things on the list will be already. But, maybe, I can come up with others. I am also going to find a book or books on self-care, and finding joy. I am very purposeful in my life, but perhaps the central focus of my purposeful being needs to shift. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and I have a great life, but my needs are important too and it is time I put some priority on them.
I’ll give myself a month – until July 22nd. The summer soccer will be done by then, and we’ll be preparing for one of life’s transitions that we’ve been through before – sending another child off to college. My school year contract will have ended, allowing me to hopefully hand the reigns of gardening off to some well-intended volunteers that were promised but haven’t materialized as of yet. And, I’ll have read a book or two on joy. I know it’s out there. And, I know it resides in me, as well. I just have to locate it again. Feel free to stop back to see how I am doing.
I like the honesty of your post. Having young children is all-consuming and I think it is a challenge to start being less selfless as they get older. I am thankful for having worked and had something else to focus on. Also (I don’t recommend this!) I divorced from my children’s dad so had to get used to time away from them from middle childhood. I do suspect this helps as they get older, as I had to find my ‘things’ a while ago. I wish you all the best with this quest, and will be reading…
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Thanks so much for your continued reading and well thought out comments. It is a challenge to be self-less when much of my focus has been raising my boys and being a dedicated volunteer. I have two nursing degrees but due to life circumstances decided to be a stay at home mom after moving to a state (WI) where we knew no one. I know why I made the decision but do think it plays a part in how I am feeling now. Not really a regret, because given the same set of circumstances, I would make the same choices, but a reality of my choice. During that time I have done extensive volunteering in the local educational community – well beyond the norms of PTO and classroom helper. This also plays a role in how I feel now. As with you, I do believe our experiences shape us. I know what I enjoy and what brings me joy, it is just that it has been harder to focus on those things lately. That is what I am trying to retrieve. Thanks so much for sharing part of your journey as well! I think we do have similar joys in our gardens.
Carol, this blog post really resonates with me – took me two days to think through how to respond! I, too, am looking for joy – have been on that search on and off for years. I think I know the things that bring me joy, but am frustrated by the inability to put them into practice yet, mostly because they require being established in a group of people who know me, and that has been elusive – and moving twice in three years hadn’t helped speed that along. I’m in a season of waiting.
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Thanks Peg. I am glad you could relate. There is so much out there on the subject of joy! It is overwhelming. I think part of the problem is that one cannot define it for others. I do agree with you that your moving has probably made finding your joy elusive lately. I always felt your joy when you talked of your children, and were part of the band leadership. Unfortunately, the people you know now do not know that side of you. I will share the books once I have read a little bit of them – I started one last night. I just want to be sure they have something to offer. It was hard to choose! Thanks, again for the comments.
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There are lots of books out there on this topic! I think many folks are searching. I know I find joy in leadership and facilitating groups – now just to find one.
And yes, my children bring me great joy, as your boys do you!