My to do list is long and always growing. I can’t help but think of Robert Frost's words,
"But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
I too have miles to go before I sleep. To do lists are never ending and ever present facts of life. At times, (maybe even all the time), we feel overwhelmed. That is how I have felt throughout the last few weeks. Doctor’s appointments, my husband’s surgery, Cub Scout projects, homeschooling my children, my side job as a tutor, household chores, grocery shopping…The list goes on and on. I ALWAYS have lots to do which means I ALWAYS have tons of anxiety about getting it all done. (And even more when I can’t get it all done.) This built up, a growing cloud of gloom ready to rain down like thunder, inside of me. Then something happened.
I was rushing -- driving my kids to an activity way across town. My mind was overflowing with the list of things I had poured into it. Then I approached an overpass above the highway. My 4 year old daughter was immediately excited, threw her hands in the air, and yelled “Wheeeeee!!!!!” as we drove up, over, and down the hill. In my rear-view mirror, I could see my 8 and 9 year old children had joined in, smiling broadly, creating a wonderful, joyous chorus of “Wheeeee!!!” It was a choir of joy.
At that moment, the flood gates broke in my mind and somewhere among the overflow, I spotted something that had been there all along. It was joy. I didn't see it because I am too busy pouring other stuff all over it and covering it up. Actually, I think I might be guilty of tying a rock around joy’s neck and letting it sink.
I started to think about joy and wondered when the last time I felt this wonderful, amazing, and rare emotion. It had been months. Then I realized something that made me really, really sad. Joy has always been present but that I had been drowning it in my own sorrows. Joy isn't rare--it is just that I rarely look for it.
I thought about the previous night when I was helping my son paint and put together a pinewood derby car for a race in Cub Scouts. My patience was thin and I didn't enjoy myself very much. As a cautious mother, I wanted to prepare my son for defeat, maybe to dam up the tears before they came. I told my son, “We are making this car for fun. We are racing it for fun. Winning is not important. It is not about winning—it is about having fun."
It struck me that at the very moment Someone was trying to tell me that life was not about winning—it was about having fun. It is not about accomplishing—it is about finding JOY! To do lists, while important, are not the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to find joy in all that you do.
Later that day, my 9 year old excitedly plucked a leaf from a tree because it was beautiful. When I looked at her smile as she cradled this small miracle in her hand, I saw it—joy. It was simple and pure. My eyes looked up and saw an entire tree filled with JOY. It had been there, standing tall and beautiful, and I hadn't noticed it.
Then, my 4 year old ran through the cool grass and giggled as it tickled her soft toes. I saw joy again in her face. She had found joy in a few blades of grass. My eyes stretched out across giant field of grass and I saw it—a field of joy. I had been standing here the whole time and almost missed it.
As my day progressed, I couldn't stop seeing joy everywhere. In the reckless abandon of my children rolling down a hill, in the writing of the students I tutored, and in the pile of laundry my mother-in-law had so lovingly washed and folded. I began wading through recent memories to find the joy I had ignored.
I began to see how much I had missed: the smiling grandmother with hair in several shades of purple because she let her granddaughter choose her look, the friend who checks on me everyday even when I don’t have much to offer in return, the writing of this blog, or in the dog that snuggles up to me at the end of the day. Yes, I have “miles to go before I sleep” but I also have… JOY. It is everywhere—all the time, even amidst hardship and trial. Can you see it?
"Joy is not in things; it is in us."--Richard Wagner
Thanks for reading today. I hope you too can see the simple joys that permeate our very existence.