This week I threw away all my joy. Literally.
Remember the Joy Jar that I started at the beginning of 2022? I had well over a hundred slips of “joyful” moments, which I added daily. It was fun at first. Then it became a challenge. And then it was forgotten. Not intentionally, but my life became so busy, complicated, and at times unrecognizable from those early Joyful January Days. Sadly, the Joy Jar became a distant memory, and those jotted down joys now reside in a landfill somewhere in Smith County proper.
I would like to say I was throwing joy around like confetti, but I was actually just trying to save the container which held the remains of more joyful days. The cookie jar was a wedding gift from one of my favorite teachers, Miss Spradley, and the culprit which endangered the jar was my grand-daughter Harper, who is at that “in-to-everything” stage. In order to protect Harper, and the cookie jar, I moved it inside a cabinet.
But that’s not to say that I’ve given up on finding joy in my daily life. It’s just a bit more covert, and challenging.
I’ve been struggling of late. My life has been turned upside down in both good and not-so-good ways. Overall, I’d probably earn a “B” if I were grading myself on the ability to roll with the flow, and juggle family, work, and all the other demands that life has been dishing out. I’m doing great at work, things are fairly organized at home, but it’s my attitude that’s bringing my score down. I’ve not only thrown away my joy, I’ve let other people steal it.
I’m great at checking off lists. And I’m pretty good at organization. I’m also an expert on keeping busy. It’s a necessity in my already busy life, which sounds ridiculous, when I am talking about how overwhelmed I feel at times.
I have discovered through my over-thinking that the “busy-ness” is a result of my fear of running out of time. I want to do the things I always planned on doing, and I also want to try to experience new things. I have been reminded over the last three months of how precious and fleeting time is. I want to get it all in. I want to live more, love more, and learn more.
I’ve realized it’s not the amount of time we are given, it’s what we do with it. I’m trying to be better, and stronger, and wiser, and kinder, and all the other good words that you can add “er” to.
In an effort to not let life get the best of me, I’ve challenged myself in a couple of ways: I’ve begun a study on “Thirty Days to Better Habits” which is an offshoot of James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. I’m also taking a course through Udemy on “Presentations and Public Speaking,” with the hope of possibly turning that into a “second-act” of sorts. (At a later date, there will be more about second-acts, present and future books, and my plans to pursue other paths. I just haven’t figured it all out yet).
It seems ridiculous to add second helpings to an already full plate, but these things have honestly helped to keep me focused, as well as distracted from the sadness and grief we have experienced in our recent season of loss.
So, having shared a little background about my current situation, I can now address “the elephant in the room”: our season of loss as it relates to Aggie Football.
It is a sheer demonstration of personal growth and many hours of prayer that I can even mention the debacle that occurred at Kyle Field last weekend. We played HORRIBLY. but we still should have and could have won. On a day where EVERYTHING that could possibly go wrong did, it just wasn’t in the stars.
And there was no joy in Mudville, rather Aggieland, when the Mighty Aggies, struck out (metaphorically) on every level: offense, defense, special teams. I’ve been watching Aggie football for over half a century, and this was the worst exhibition I’ve witnessed; an all-around mind-numbing, pitiful experience.
And if you know me at all, you know I don’t take these things too well. I have tried with all my might to manage my expectations, as well as separate myself emotionally from A&M football. But I can’t do it. It’s in my blood, and heart, and soul. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s the best of times and worst of times.
So, when you mix in an unexpected, lackluster defeat of my team with the stress, and struggles of my busy life, the blahs seemed to overtake the blessings. I’ve spent the week listening to all the jokes, and criticisms, and arm-chair quarterbacking. I’ve endured the humiliation of my team being exposed on national TV, and the analysts and commentators making more Aggie jokes than usual. And honestly, I’ve handled it better than I expected.
This actually made me chuckle a bit. So at least I’ve kept my sense of humor.
But, it has been an exhausting, emotional, and challenging week where it seemed everything I did went wrong. From having the car door somehow swing back into my leg leaving a hideous gash, to a container of creamer leaking all over me and the kitchen floor, I’ve been endlessly tested, as people and circumstances have tried to steal my joy.
As I write this blog, I’m alone. Something I rarely am these days. Brian is visiting his mom; Charles, Kaitlyn, and the kids are at her grandmother’s, and I’m here with my best girl, Lorelai, sitting beside me. For me, solitude is invigorating. It’s refreshing, and with it brings a sense of peace and renewal.
But today, I’ve just felt sad. I know it’s the changing seasons. Summer slowly passing the torch to fall, my favorite, yet saddest time of year. I’m reminded of my dad, and his death thirty years ago in October. I think about the strength of my husband, who is navigating his way through grief after losing his dad in June. I’m reminded that the clock never stops ticking and when I gaze in the mirror, I see someone I don’t completely recognize. Time marches on…
So, this morning I cried. I cried for the people no longer in my life. I cried because when I looked in the mirror I saw an old woman, and I cried because my football team stunk it up on the field last week.
After the tears and the sobbing, I dried it up, pulled myself together and decided to go to the grocery store. I went because it was necessary, and also because I was hoping for a chance encounter. I needed a pick-me-up, and surprisingly, this happens quite often to me at the Grocery Store.
I grabbed my keys and list, and off I went. And my trip did not disappoint.
Inasmuch as I was despondent over the Aggie loss, I was still proudly wearing an A&M t-shirt. I knew I was taking a chance, especially if I ran into a t-shirt fan from another school who might not understand the severe anguish that a loss in early September can do to one’s football psyche.
I wasn’t at all surprised, when a kind gentleman passed me in the aisle and said, “I guess there’s no doubt who you’ll be supporting tonight.” He seemed sincere, and definitely wasn’t mocking me.
I ventured a smiled, and replied, “Yes. On a wing and a prayer.” He then said, “I think they’re going to win. So tonight, when the game is over, remember what the man in the grocery store said.”
That was clearly the most positive, confident statement I had heard all week (especially after being on TexAgs for way too many hours after vowing I wouldn’t go near it).
Our conversation didn’t end there. He is originally from Arkansas, so of course he’s a Razorback fan. That led to more football talk, and then we moved on to church, and touched on politics and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I also found out that he is the County Commissioner for my precinct. And he also lost his dad in a terrible car wreck earlier this year…
It wasn’t simply a perfect encounter in the aisle of Super 1 Foods—it was a divine appointment.
So many times, we are amazed at things that we view as coincidental. It’s always fun when random things work out. But today, after wallowing around in a well of self-pity, I set out to the store knowing that God was about to turn my day around. I believed it. Like Blanche Dubois, (sort of) I was blessed by the kindness of a stranger. God nudged me to the store, and it was no coincidence.
When we seek joy, we find it. And when we look for the worst in things, that’s what we see.
How do you want to spend your time? Joyfully, or miserably? I will choose JOY every time, even when it seems it can’t be found in a jar.
Today, I was reminded in the sweetest way that we see the world how we choose to see it and life is what we make it. It’s easy to dwell on the bad things rather than trying to figure out how to change them.
I’m learning a new way of thinking after reading (I’m not finished yet) Atomic Habits. When we set goals, many times we focus on the end result, rather than how we get there. While looking at the big picture is good, sometimes it makes getting there seem harder. If we start by changing tiny things that will eventually get us there, the journey is easier, and we tend to stick to our goal longer, because we start accomplishing those smaller goals. We reinforce those positive behaviors, and this winning feeling then propels us to add new positive behaviors that will help us get to the result we hope for.
I’m not sure what the Aggies will do tonight. Each player, coach, and fan must choose to be better than we were last week. If we do this, we are a step closer to victory.
I hope the man in the store is right. I hope above all hopes that the Aggies win.
But no matter the outcome, I will remember the man in the aisle at the store for far more than his encouraging words about my team. I will remember him for restoring faith in myself and in humanity.
Just remember, strangers cloaked in kindness are messengers from God and it is my prayer that you either are one, or you meet one.