Some people think you have to earn joy. They believe that before you can do something fun, you have to do something hard. Before you get to do things that delight you, you need to do things that feel like work.
I disagree. I think that philosophy makes your life a drudgery. Sure, there are tasks that must be done, and it helps to set out rewards for ourselves for doing them. The taxes must be filed, so I may need to promise myself a salted caramel if I press through them.
I do not think, however, that life is best lived as a series of chores that must be completed before we can have any fun. As if we are Cinderella toiling in the scullery waiting for a crust of bread from our stingy stepmother.
I don’t believe this is the way God intended life to feel. And it doesn’t even lead to our highest quality work. My best work is actually done when joy and refreshment are sprinkled through my day. I find that when I take time to replenish myself, I can work with greater energy and focus.
Try it. Figure out what refreshes you and then insert a little of it in your day. See if your work is not then more easily and skillfully done.
The trick is knowing what actually brings you joy. This requires some self observation. I have been watching myself for years, trying to discern precisely what energizes me as well as what drains me. Here is what I have found:
Pretty things buoy me. I am energized by bits of color and beauty. Taking my camera and hunting for scraps of color outside instantly refreshes me.
Decluttering even a single space in my home energizes me to face life. Given my housemates and their
maddening inclinations gifts, it is unlikely that there will ever be a day when my entire home is without clutter and dust. I can, however, reclaim individual spaces for my sanity, much like the Allies taking Omaha Beach and beginning their large scale campaign for worldwide victory.
A few months ago, there was a week in which I was facing several important writing tasks. I knew I was going to have to be focused and industrious to get them each done well. So, what did I do to prepare? I cleaned my room. No, not as a way to procrastinate, but as a way to clear my mind and encourage myself.
I put away every piece of clothing and jewelry and every out-of-place item, and I asked Rick to do the same. I dusted all the surfaces and even the baseboards. I swept, and I cleaned the mirrors. I put away all the little projects that I had not quite gotten around to finishing. Afterwards, I sat in my cushy, corner chair, looking around happily and breathing easily. I was ready to face my big writing week.
A fresh space freshens my mind. I’m pretty sure this is why my parents make their bed every day. Show-offs.
Spending time with Rick refreshes me. By spending time, I mean plain old hanging out. I do not mean having a Meeting Of The Minds in which we workshop all the issues with our kids, our home, and our life. While those meetings are necessary, too, they are not exactly refreshing.
When we hang out, we eat hot food, drink wine, laugh, and browse book stores. Occasionally, we rent a tandem bicycle. There is nothing quite so refreshing as laughing at yourself. Rick’s relaxed companionship quietly replenishes my soul.
Taking one of my kids out alone can rejuvenate me. So does sinking deeply into a well written book. Talking with a close friend who makes me laugh also does the trick.
What about you? What gives you energy and life? Do you let yourself have those things?
©Laura Goetsch and Thinking about Such Things, 2016