On Losing {and Finding} My Joy

I woke up the other morning and realized – with some tears involved – that somehow, without me really noticing, I’d lost my Joy.

My close friends and family probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear this, knowing the circumstances of my life over the past several months.

But me? I was a little surprised. And more than a little bit sad.

Those circumstances of my life had stolen all of my Joy, and along with Joy, a little bit of Hope too.

And I think I was mostly surprised that somehow I’d let that happen.

Because Joy is something that I’ve held onto, along with Hope and Faith, over the past several years.

Joy has been such a defining part of who I am and what I share of myself with the world, both here on my blog and other online spaces, as well as In Real Life.

Six years ago, before our family publishing business became insanely busy and my workload began to overwhelm me, our life was lived without a lot of money (at times, without much at all) but with so much more time for me to discover the little pleasures life had to offer.

I’d bake bread and hot cross buns, from scratch, to save money in our tight, tight budget in those early years of business.

I’d browse in bookshops, but bring home armfuls of books from the local library.

I learned to enjoy the little things. I learned to love, and so look forward to, those little things…

Most weeks, I would spend my ‘day off’ on Friday, driving to the beautiful town of Buninyong, to the most gorgeous cafe I knew of (which has sadly since closed), The Cupcake Cafe. I’d sit under vintage bunting, reading Country Style magazine and enjoying my weekly decaf soy latte – with the occasional indulgence of a beautifully decorated chocolate or vanilla cupcake or a delicious Thai chicken pie with salad for lunch.

I’d ‘window shop’ in the adjoining shabby chic shop, The Vintage Garden, surrounded by beautiful white bookshelves and buffets and pretty pink lamps, creating a lovely furniture wishlist for myself.

Those were moments for me of absolute pleasure.

Then, I might stop by the lake for a while. Or spend time browsing in the bookshop, or a fabric shop, before returning home to make homemade cookies for my kids to enjoy when they arrived home from school.

When life got busy soon after, it got insanely busy. Publishing a bestselling book meant that suddenly money was no longer an issue… but ‘days off’ were few and far between, and I barely had time to get the grocery shopping done, never mind having time to indulge in hours of browsing in bookshops or even the library.

Still, although there weren’t as many, I did make time to appreciate those small moments and experiences of Joy: a Sunday trip to the local Farmer’s Market, spending some of that hard-earned money on my favourite Phoenix Trading cards, and at least some stolen minutes of bookshop and fabric browsing (and buying!) at every opportunity possible.

Those small moments of experiencing Joy – taking time to savour and appreciate even just the little things – added up, so that to me, I would easily describe my life as ‘happy’.

There was so much about my life that I chose to enjoy, so many little moments that lit me up!

I couldn’t tell you exactly when Joy started to slip away from me. When I wrote this post, I was still clinging onto those moments. The return of my hip and back pain a few years ago, which brought an end to my much-loved daily walks, didn’t help at all.

And then there was the other stuff…

I had to fight really hard for my joy, for a few years there, in my marriage, where small cracks were fast becoming gaping chasms… where I was the only one who cared about – the only one who really even knew about  – my Joy. I had to fight so hard for the things that were important to me, for those things that lit me up and brought me Hope.

I worked really hard to hold onto that little spark of Hope in my heart, the hope that knew that in all of the craziness and chaos, those things that brought Joy to my soul… those things mattered.

And then, sometime between New Year’s Day and my moment of realization early last week, I let it go. I let Joy slip from my grasp.

I got caught up in my sadness. I got caught up in the overwhelm of all I was trying to achieve with my ebook, and in feeling that my progress was too slow. I got caught up in the money worries, the parenting worries…

I’d even let go, somehow, not just of Joy, but also of that little spark of Hope.

I woke up the other morning and realized – with some tears involved – that somehow, without me really noticing, over the past four months, I’d lost my Joy. And Hope.

And in that moment of realizing, I told myself, as Andrew Lincoln’s character Mark does at the end of this beautiful scene from Love Actually: ‘Enough. Enough now’.

I made a choice in that moment, to seek out Joy again each day, in just the little things. And to let those moments of Joy be the foundations, as I rebuild a life that I can again describe as ‘happy’.

And so, in this past week, I’ve tried to fill my days with those little pleasures that make my heart sing again:

~ My favourite Boost green smoothie, enjoyed while I sat by the lake, writing

~ A detour off the highway, to take the ‘scenic route’ that I love so much

~ An almost accidental (but so very much enjoyed) wander through the Botanical Gardens when I chose to drive to Melbourne instead of taking the train

~ A beautiful lunch today with my Mum to celebrate Mothers’ Day

~ Snuggling in front of a warm, cozy fire finishing the latest novel I’ve been reading.

And next week, I’ll do the same. And the next. And the next…

Because we should never let go, if we can help it, of those little moments and experiences of Joy in our lives.

Those are the moments, stacked up, one on top of another, that build for us a life that’s happy and filled with Hope. They may not solve all of our problems, or take away all of our pain and struggle (I know that only too well and I’m sure you do too). But they’re the things that keep us going, moving forward with Hope and Faith, believing that there’ll be many, many more moments of Joy for us.

And Joy matters. It really does.

Wishing you so many moments of Joy in the little things and the experiences of your own life this week.