Over our morning coffee on December 31st, I asked David, my husband and BFF of four decades a question. “What times in your days do you feel the happiest or a sincere feeling of joy? Tell me about your top three or four.”
He thought for a while, but his first and immediate response was, holding our newest little granddaughter, Mabel. She is a quiet and snuggly little chubster who coos and lays her head on his shoulders as if she trusts him unconditionally.
David, a physician, also talked about patients who express gratitude about his help, not only surgical successes, but his attendance to education and partnership with their families. He, too, talked about car trips with me when we have those in-depth conversations that are rare in our routine days.
Of course, I had a reason for asking him the question. The day before, I had been taking a hot yoga class and had felt such joy in the class that I felt a sense of euphoria. In finishing the sixty-minute class, I thought of other times I experienced similar feelings. I continued to think about my life joys and how I could increase those times in the upcoming year.
Focus on Life’s Joys, Not Resolutions
I’ve made my share of resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, complain less, and volunteer more…only to lose sight of them a few months into the year. And, I want to make this year different. As I lay in the minutes of the yoga class, shavasana, it came to me that I could easily make a list of four times in my daily life when I experience joy and get to those times as often as I can in this upcoming year.
At sixty-two years of age, I’m not thin and lithe but I’m comfortable on a yoga mat. In the warm, flow classes I take, I am typically twice the age of the other students in the class. I am not as fit. I am not dressed in LuLu Lemon fashion. But what I am is experienced and shameless in these moments. I sweat and move freely with the youngest and the prettiest. I smile and learn their names. Where they live. What they do. I feel joy in the moment and forget everything going on in the world.
I attended a lecture this year given by Leslie Stahl, a long-time journalist and grandmother. She talked about her new book, Becoming Grandma – The Joy and Science of the New Grandparenting. In her book, she investigates grandparenting just as she investigates other topics that her journalism career demands of her.
Her talk and her book affirm that the sheer joy I feel around my four grandchildren is not only emotional but physiological. Did you know that grandmothers secrete the hormone oxytocin into their blood stream, just as the mom does, when around her grandbabies! Regardless of this science, when Henry or Ella or Winnie run to me and wrap their pudgy little hands around my legs, I feel crazy joy! Each of them, in unsolicited moments, whisper that they love me. They overlook my wrinkles, my aging feet, and my lapses in remembering if I’ve already told them a story, and adore me for exactly who I am in the moment.
We have been married almost thirty-nine years. We’ve never had a king-sized bed. I believe we could sleep comfortably in a twin-sized bed because we’re spoon sleepers. I lay on my left side and he snuggles in behind me. The last thing he does before we begin our concert of snoring is wrap his arm around my waist. Joy! I feel safe and loved. I never want to be without that spoon. It’s a perfect fit.
I love to be overtly kind to individuals I don’t know. When making an appointment on the phone, I like to say “thank you for being so helpful” or tell the Starbucks’ barista “have a great day” and tip them more than they expect. I like to show sincere interest in the staff at the yoga studio and the salon where I have my hair styled so I took home-made brownies to them both during the holiday season. I was so happy to see their faces when I handed them the sweets.
Making 2017 A Year of Joy
In a world that seems so upside down with fear of terrorism, tension between police and the public, controversies in politics, and stories of false journalism, I need to believe that 2017 will be a good year.
I probably won’t lose weight. Again, I will eat Cheetos and fries. I don’t think I’ll climb Mt. Everest. But that’s okay, because I will go to yoga, I will make sure I have many opportunities for hugs and kisses and giggles with the little ones, I will whisper “thank you” each night when David wraps his arm around me, and I will spread gratitude to persons in areas of my life doing jobs that help me organize and manage my life.
Yes, I will have joy in 2017. I hope you will, too. Namaste.