Joy is Optional

Did you know that you’re promised joy? Psalm 30 says, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  Yet sometimes we just don’t feel it.  It seems elusive.


And sometimes we have to choose joy before it will find us.  It feels so far away.  Sometimes joy is optional.

Have you ever had a day when things went very wrong?  You ended up in a funk?  Knew what you needed to do to get yourself out of it….and somehow just couldn’t do it?  That’s what happened to me the other day.

It all started at work.  An onslaught of issues, challenges, and (how to say this delicately?) “discussions” about the best way to solve a difficult problem.  By the time we finished, I was completely spent.  In every way.

And then there was the conversation I had with my coach about the state of my business.  Not seeing progress.  Feeling weary from trying to keep both a job and a business going at the same time.  I hit the proverbial wall.

I knew I needed to deal with the emotions.  They weren’t going to go away by themselves.  But I didn’t.  I just couldn’t.  I wanted to ignore them.  Pretend they weren’t there.  The stress from the conflict.  Feeling like people weren’t listening to me.  Feeling like I was failing on several fronts.

So I spent time doing something mindless.  Something that distracted me.  It worked! …..until it was time to go to bed.  All that pent-up emotion let loose as soon as I turned on the water to get ready for bed.  Now I knew there was no way I was going to sleep anytime soon.

Did I then practice gratitude by writing in my gratitude journal?  Did I dance?  Did I give thanks for the fleas (remember Episode 076)?  No.  I didn’t do anything I knew could help.  I’m not exactly sure why.  It felt as though I didn’t have the strength.

So I cried instead.  And was angry because I was crying.  Angry at myself for choosing this instead of joy.  ‘Cause that’s exactly what I’d done.  Perversely, there was something that prevented me from taking the very actions I knew would help.

Instead of dealing with how I felt straightaway, I waited until it was time for bed.  And ended up unable to fall asleep until about 4:30 in the morning.  All because I didn’t choose joy.  I chose instead to wallow in my own tears.

Now I’m not going to beat myself up over this.  After all, it doesn’t happen very often.  I’m only human.  And it only lasted for one night.  But that’s time I can’t get back. So I do want to start rehearsing my joy-practices for a while to keep in shape.

And that’s why I’m telling you this story.  Not because I love tearing myself down in public.  No, it’s because I suspect you might do something at least a teeny bit similar every once in a while.  It’s part of what makes us human.  We don’t always do what’s best for us – or even what would set us free.  We get stuck where we are.  Like we’re drowning in quicksand.

We usually snap out of it eventually.  Like when we don’t sleep all night and kick ourselves in the morning.  There’s usually something that wakes us from our lethargy and propels us to change our attitude.

But it really is a choice, isn’t it?  Joy really is optional.  Some choose it early and often.  Some wait for it to come to them.  And some don’t recognize it when it knocks on the door.

Who do you think is happier?  Who’s more successful?  Who do others want to be around?  Exactly.  Not who I was the other day.

Remember this:

  1. Joy isn’t guaranteed. It doesn’t always show up wrapped in a bow.
  2. Joy is a choice. A choice we sometimes can’t seem to make.
  3. Practicing joy makes us more likely to choose it when difficulties arise.

Have you ever been out of sorts and couldn’t seem to shake it – even though you knew how?  If so, share in the comments how you put yourself back together.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • A good brisk walk (the kind where I bruise the air good with my elbows) sure does my grousing, irritable, on-edge self good. Or turning on music and dancing, but honestly, it’s been too long since I’ve done the latter. Need to move that one up the list. Or someone makes me laugh and I just let my cranky self go with it, unladylike as you please. All three are physical releases, the bigger version of a trombone player emptying the spit valve. :)