Joy (April A~Z Challenge)


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“Oh, Joy…”

My Mom used to say that, her voice edged with sarcasm, when what she meant was something quite the opposite. She’d say it when she learned that one of us had a big report due tomorrow, for school…and we hadn’t yet started the research. Or when yet another child was now down with fever, cold or chicken pox. Or when my grandparents would be coming by for a visit on their way to Beaver Island from Chicago – or vice versa – and planned to stay with us. Or when Dad would pull in to the driveway with one or more of the “Doney” brothers, who were currently “off the wagon,” and all were clearly already unsteady on their feet.

We learned the meaning of “joy” from what it was not…but it was many years before I thought about the true definition of the word. That was the case, it seems, with many words involving feelings. We were much more inclined to recognize – and verbalize -negative feelings than positive: “What are you so mad about;” “What are you crying for;” and “What’s the matter with you?” The responses kept to the same line of thought: what is wrong with my world.

At Easter time, we might excitedly chatter about our new dresses, hats and shoes, saying how much we “loved” the colors or ribbons or buckles. At Christmas time, we’d exchange secrets and smiles and giggles. We’d say, “aren’t you excited?” and “I can’t wait!” And when Mom came home from the hospital with a new baby, we’d gather around the bassinet, saying, “look how pretty” and “she’s so tiny!” At those times, and many others, in what was basically a very happy childhood, I’m certain we felt joy.  We just didn’t talk about it.

I don’t think anyone ever asked, “What makes you happy” or “What brings you joy?” I don’t know if it would have made a bit of difference in how I viewed the world, as a child. I know that – as an adult – I decided, at some point, that it was my right, in this life, to be happy. Not, simply, to be not unhappy, but to have joy in my life.

With that realization came expectations and basic standards for everything. It changed the way I looked at lovers and friends, goals, activities and life-style. I expected more from relationships, jobs, and even from simple conversations. Now, if someone were to ask me what brings me joy, I would have a ready answer (the first spring blooms; my wag-tail dogs greeting me at the door; the curled, early leaves of beans poking out of the soil, hugs from brothers and sisters, giggling with my girlfriend, Jennifer’s smile, Katey’s laugh, the sweet faces of my grandchildren, snow at Christmas, the view of the harbor as I come around the corner into town…). In my life today, I’d rather pay less attention to what is wrong, and more attention to what makes me happy. Oh, joy!


About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

5 responses »

  1. What an absolutely wonderful post, Cindy. Your writing often makes me joyful and today was no exception.

    We had similar childhoods. I suspect many will say the same. Limited talk of feelings and when we did speak of them, it was to negate them. Logic was king, queen and every maidservant in my home, prized above all else. My father used to scoff, “Happiness is a kid with an icecream cone.” He’s right. It is and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    You’ve inspired me to make my own list of what brings me joy. Thanks, Cindy.

    • Oh, Karen, thank you for these kind words! This was fun to write, and I felt like I was revisiting a momentous time in my life – when I realized I had a right to be happy – that I maybe hadn’t paid that much attention to at the time, though it changed my whole life. Thanks for reading, Karen, and for your comments!

  2. I remember the sarcastic “oh joy” phrase from my past too! I really liked this post – it’s a lot better to find and appreciate what’s right in life rather than what’s wrong.

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