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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: Take time to notice the joy in your life

By Stacy Turner

When my daughter came home for her college spring break, she wanted help with filing her taxes. With myriad W2s from jobs in two states, finding and filing the appropriate local, state and federal tax documents wasn’t something she wanted to tackle on her own.  When we finally sat down to sort it all out at the end of the week, she complained heartily.  “I’m just a poor college student -- I didn’t even make that much money!  And why do they make it so hard to figure out what I owe them?,” she wailed.

I remember making similar complaints at her age, as I made the realization that what I had been pushing so hard to achieve –– becoming an adult –– might not be quite what I had pictured through rose-colored glasses.  Anyway, just three hours later the appropriate forms were filed.  To mark the end of this momentous task, we laughed at late-night reruns of “The Office” and ate ice cream, because that’s what adults can do when they finish something hard.

A wise friend shared a quote by Gary Haugen that says, “Joy is the oxygen for doing hard things.”  It’s true that joy is essential, because at every age and life stage, life is chock full of hard things.  Sleepless nights as new parents, the epic struggle of wills over potty training, and eventually helping your child learn to operate a motor vehicle without losing your cool.  Luckily, those moments are woven together with strands of incredible joy.  Things like seeing that first toothless smile, watching your kid beam with pride after learning a new skill, and yes, even helping them become tax-paying, vote-casting adults. 

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to get distracted by hard things, and fool ourselves into believing that’s all there is.  Like when you’ve started looking for a particular type of car, and then suddenly, you see it everywhere.  The number of cars hasn’t changed; but when your brain is subconsciously looking for it, you notice it more.  Instead of seeing all the difficulties, why not train our brains to notice joy in the large and small ways it shows up in everyday life instead?

Like the bright red buds on the maple tree after the cold, gray winter, or the comfort of cold hands wrapped around a warm mug.  Even amid rain and mud, daffodils and tulips reach skyward, ready to bloom.  Gray skies and mud will persist, just like our struggles, both large and small.  Luckily, so will our joy…as long as we make sure to notice it.