Good Tidings of Joy

I'm currently reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, and nodding my head along with agreement as I recognize so many of her ideas in my own life. One of the things she talks about is the difficulty some of us have in really experiencing joy without thinking about the next bad thing that must be coming our way. She calls it "Foreboding Joy."

Oh man, do I do this.

M and I both just started jobs that feel right, we're expecting a baby, we're all healthy. It feels like all the news we're getting now is good news. Our days contain lots of joyful moments. But instead of simply  experiencing the joy, I'm reluctant to embrace it. I worry that it means bad luck is on its way. I feel the need to constantly prepare myself for this impending bad luck, and my imagination runs away to places I'd rather not put in words.

Brown's research interviews with women revealed that I am not alone in this. Lots of her subjects reported these foreboding thoughts when they watched their children peacefully at sleep. They could not help but imagine a horrific car accident or getting a phone call from the police. I felt at once relieved that other women reported feeling this way, and then immediately horrified that so many of us are walking around with these mental images.

It's not the Connecticut shootings. I would be experiencing Foreboding Joy even if somebody hadn't just gone on a murderous rampage in a kindergarten. But it does beg the question....just because bad things can and do happen to people, is it right to live your life anticipating them? Would that make a really horrifying event easier to deal with, if it actually happened to you? People who have experienced tragedy tell Brown no. And furthermore, people who have experienced tragedy often still experience a lot of joy.

This season is about Big Joy. A savior's birth, if you celebrate Christmas, or the retaking of a sacred temple, if you are Jewish. You don't need to wait for Big Joy, though. Joy also comes in the small moments. Ordinary moments. Peeking out the window on a frosty morning to see snow. Laurel asking M what kind of hot sauce he wants and digging around in the fridge until she finds the right one. Running into neighbors at the grocery store. Getting an email from a friend you haven't heard from in a while. Sitting around with some paper and scissors and glue sticks and making holiday decorations.

So, look for the joy in your life today and lean into it. Forget about what may come next.

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