It was the year for my organization’s Biannual Conference. The committee had put together a day filled with speakers and breakout sessions around the theme for this year: Wellness, Balance, Equity. We were hosting it at the Intercontinental at the Wharf, a beautiful venue, on March 10. Although it was right before the world was completely turned upside down, there were already rumblings that large gatherings may not be advisable. We took our chances and held the conference as scheduled. Thankfully, the extra precautions we took were sufficient and all were safe. But I want to share with you my experience with the final speaker of the day.
Like most conferences, some of the sessions were insightful, some less so, but the closing plenary caught my attention. I don’t recall the exact title or topic, but what struck me was her challenge at the end. She challenged us all to do something that brought us joy for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for 30 days. Even though I am a generally happy person, joy seemed to me to be something that was spectacular, like what I felt on my wedding day, or when my children were born. I could not imagine doing something each day that would bring me joy, especially because meeting my own needs was generally not a top priority. And I think that was her whole point. Intrigued, I decided to give it a try.
I started my “joy journal” on March 10 and wrote a few things each night before bed. I don’t know if it was always 15 minutes, or whether what I wrote down constituted feeling joy, but I gave it a try. As you can imagine, about a week later when the “stay-at-home” order was put in place, it became more of a challenge to know what to write. Was there joy anywhere in my day as I sat at my “home office” and missed my colleagues, and didn’t go outside for days at a time? I made even less time for myself as the work hours grew and the uncertainty left me feeling drained. But I kept at it and once I hit 30 days I decided to keep going. Here is what I learned.
First, JOY did not have to be so huge! I realized it just had to be something that made me smile, as long as I was open to noticing the feeling. It was seeing the spring flowers or reconnecting with an old friend via Zoom. Sometimes it was feeling fulfillment for a completed project, or even finishing the jigsaw puzzle on the folding card table. Waking up early when the house was quiet or having coffee with a colleague while we chatted on the phone or connecting with family via text…… all these small moments became my definition of joy. So really the challenge was not as hard as I thought it would be, I just had to reimagine my idea of joy. I have now recorded 61 days in my “joy journal” with only one where I just could not find anything to write down. Pretty good! The entries have changed over this period and my definition of joy has been simplified but I have learned that there are moments each day that make me smile and remembering them each night makes me smile again.
The second thing I noticed was that my nightly prayers also changed over time. As I lay my head down at night and had my daily conversation with God, more of it was about being thankful and not just praying for all the things I was worried about. During this time of extreme uncertainty and anxiety I was able to focus on the small moments I was grateful for.
The speaker was from California and she takes 15 minutes every day to sit and look at the ocean. Well, that is a little different than my experience, but I have found all the things that bring me joy each day and I am grateful she encouraged me to see them. Maybe this will inspire you to find them too.
— Janie Piemonte, Parish Administrator, May 2020
P.S. I was out walking in the area one recent Sunday afternoon, trying to be open to noticing the little things. I looked up and saw the bear in the window and snapped his picture. It was surely a moment of unexpected joy that I added to my journal.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog