Plan For Joy

Nette, one of my treasured long-time readers,  left the following comment on my post yesterday:

How did you get from “‘whatever’, let’s just get this mess cleaned up because I’m tired and I still need to make dinner and I don’t have anything thawed out”, to “let me bask in this moment of my child finding art in an accident (which is the best kind) and grab my camera and take a shot or two or three so I can write about my thoughts about this”.

The truth is Nette, I plan for joy. I expect it in my day, I seek it and I try to capture it. And in order to do that I have to facilitate it a little bit. To be clear, I do not try to manufacture joy but I do try to open my eyes to seeing it for the gift that it is  and to be ready to sneak up on it when it occurs.  I often fail as we all do.  Sometimes it seems more important to get the meatloaf in the oven than to stop and look at ribbon on the floor or the cardinal in the snow.

One of ways I facilitate joy in my life is that I always have one of my cameras at hand. I pick it up off my desk in the kitchen and capture moments off and on throughout the day. The body of the camera is a mess because sometimes I barely get the hamburger I’m mixing into dinner off my hands before I snap a picture.  Hamburger will wipe off. The moment won’t come again.  I have files of pictures of things like ribbon on the floor that would make no sense to anyone else, but hidden in those images is the joy of an ordinary moment in my life, the life I had at the very minute the shutter blinked.

I always have paper and pen at hand. I write down little incomplete thoughts in just enough words that I might be able to ruminate upon the moment later and complete the painting with words that make sense outside of my own head.

I keep a little voice recorder in my car.  When it’s just Sean and me in the car and I sense it’s a “talking time” I surreptitiously turn it on and let it go. Just the other day I came across one of the car conversations from when he was three and it melted my heart to hear that sweet baby voice again, it reconstituted the joy of that forgotten moment.

And here’s the thing about joy – sometimes the joy is not apparent exactly in the moment, but comes later — after you’ve had time to take a deep breath, reflect upon it and bring perspective to it.  But it is joy all the same and those photos and little word pictures help to keep it from vanishing like a mist.

Here’s a post I wrote a year or so ago about capturing joy.

Thanks for the great comment Nette!

29 thoughts on “Plan For Joy

  1. I so understand those pictures that seem mundane to others. One of my favorite “remember the joy” pictures is a shot of my feet stretched out on a beach chair with the ocean in the background. My toenails are painted a color a teenager would be embarrassed to wear. And this time alone was so needed and so long fought for. I feel peaceful everytime I view it. Even 6 years later.

  2. Thank you for answering her question. I was just telling my son how scattered my thought and ideas feel. I was think I should have something with me to write that stuff down in the moment.

    Also, I want to mention that my son is in Iraq and the fact that I can talk to him in the mornings. Almost every morning via instant messaging, is a miracle! He’s so cute.

    Every night, Sean and I pray for all of our soldiers overseas, that God would return them home safely to their families. I guess we’ve been praying for your son all this time, Jerriann. ~ AM

  3. When your a mom especially if it was hard to oome by with lots of praying and hurts, I think you saber the don’t somther but take ALL the time you can to LOVE (interact, boost, just laugh) with that child. In fact, it IS more important than getting the work done. They grow and leave and you want them to be able to see the joy and beauth around their lives no matter how stressful. Joy is a nice word for it.

  4. Lovely post. And some great new ideas. I tend to keep bits and scraps of things because it connects me to those moments–I need to pull the camera out for those things as much as I do to capture the kids themselves.

  5. I love your “reconstituting joy” line…

    can I have a package of dried joy to line my pantry with…oh, and how about some peace…

    love that thought..a pantry full of freeze dried goodness…

  6. Beautiful post, AM. This type of mindset slips through the cracks far too easily. You truly do have to plan, expect, seek, and capture joy. As a mom of 15 & almost 14 year old boys, I’m astounded by how quickly it all passes. And if we don’t record the moments, they’ll slip through the cracks as well. I love your idea of the voice recorder. While we don’t have a lot of them, I’m grateful for the videos of our boys when they were small. It is incredibly precious to hear their tiny, little voices. Especially when one of mine has a man voice & is taller than me! 😀

  7. I love the idea of a pocket voice recorder… I may have to find one. So much changes from day to day, and we forget the funny things they say, the moments we don’t WANT to forget, but ultimately, will…

  8. I love what you wrote about the recorder. My dad was famous for doing that. Often, if family or friends were visiting, he would just turn it on and record for a while.

    Because of that, we have cherished recordings of my beloved uncle yodeling as he so often did, my grandmother explaining to my sister (a young child at the time) that she needed to get the clothes in from outside before it starts “weeping” out (raining) and so much more. Some of the everydayness of my childhood is captured on those tapes that are absolutely priceless to us. I even have a tape of me at 3yrs old and again at 5.

    Keep the tape rolling, you will never regret it.


  9. I love the beautiful pictures your words paint.

    I’m going to try this. The thought of those little moments of great value passing me by is unbearable.

    Finding that joy in spite of current circumstances–in spite of those knots that form in my throat over my girls–is an absolute necessity!

    Thank you for your encouraging words.

  10. Anne Lamott’s first piece of writing advice is: always carry a pen. When inspiration strikes, you’ll have a way to record it.

    Cameras and MP3 recording devices of all kinds have become a complement to the lowly pen and notecard, but the idea is the same.

    One way or another, high-tech or low, as writers, try to capture at least sketchy reminders of the moment.

    Pens are so underutilized.

  11. I love these ideas. Our camera sits out in the open, too, so I can capture moments. I read once that if you video just 15 seconds a day of your child you’ll have an hour and a half of their life saved per year (and once I get that video going, it ends up being more than 15 seconds of tape). Such fun to watch them grow up again.

    Living with joy. Living in the moment. I am so often struck with how I miss out because I’m always looking ahead and behind rather than looking at today and all that God has given us this moment.

  12. People think I am crazy because I am forever photographing or writing on scraps of paper. My husband says that I am obsessed with holding the moment. And that is exactly what it is, I think that if you wake up and get ready to capture the joy in a day, joy will become apparent. There are so many moments we miss because we are too busy to notice. It is wonderful to read your blog and know that someone knows exactly why there is a camera in my handbag, always.

  13. Love it. Please remember it when homework is remembered at 10 minutes before bedtime and the uniform needs to be washed before 6:30 a.m. and carpool isn’t working out like it should. Because there is joy in that, too, but it seems a little more buried.

    And it totally makes me cry that you and Sean now can pray for Jerriann’s son specifically…

  14. I think you have a great point. I try to remind myself just how lucky I am to have kids every single day. I have found that if I do that then it is much easier to manage them when they aren’t acting like little angels. It takes some work to be happy!
    Great post.

  15. What a wonderful post. Thank you, AM, for reminding me of what I know is true. I need to become more deliberate in seeking the joy, and, like you, expect to find it!

  16. I just read the linked post too, and it blew me away as well. Thank you so much for being here to put these thoughts into words.


  17. I wrote to a dear friend yesterday that I’d had a “mommy evening” — my son managed to emit a poo so large that he utterly and completely stopped up the toilet, which overran in a horrifying toxic waste spill all over my bathroom floor. I marveled that some of the things that years ago would have made me vomit, now only make me think “well, I’m up to my knees in poop. I’d better take a shower when I’m done.” I’m not sure it’s one of the JOYs of motherhood, but it’s a real demonstration of how much love overcomes adversity…

  18. When I was a young mother, I read somewhere that you should keep a two-or-three-line diary in order to write down one good thing that happened that day. It wouldn’t take much time, and it would help keep you focused on positive things. I did this, and I found myself having a great time looking out for the ONE good thing I would write down before I went to bed.

  19. Wow. This really hit home on a perfect day. Just this morning, my husband and I woke up very late. That harried atmosphere always stresses us out, in turn stressing out our little toddler. As he whined to be held and whined to have juice and whined to find his monkey, I lost my patience several times. WE ARE LATE! Of course, in my head I KNOW that little child doesn’t understand or care about that. All he knows is that Mommy and Daddy aren’t giving him the love, attention and SECURITY that he so desperately needs in that exact moment of his own little stressed world.

    I dropped him off at school, full of guilt with my temperament, full of guilt with my even having to be a working mom, which has only compounded since the day has wore on.

    I don’t know what I’m going to do exactly, but God willing, tonight will be different than this morning. Snuggles will be had, books will be read, games will be played, whatever it takes for my sweet baby to feel loved and secure is what I want to do.

    I am reminded that all to often, I truly miss the point. But it’s always AFTER the fact.

    Work in progress…

  20. You’ve inspired me to put a voice recorder in my car. I want to capture the precious laughter of my boys when my husband makes outrageous faces through the windows while we fill up with gas.

    So, what recorder do you recommend? An “old-fashioned” one with micro-cassettes or a digital one? How do you save the recordings?


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