I read the phrase ‘Protect the Joy’ somewhere on the internet in the month of December, early on before the enormity of the holiday descended on me. I will still in the planning stages, the list making ritual, pre-overwhelmed. I knew the weight of the season was going to fall on me. It always has.
Holidays. Expectations. Needs, hopes, desires. Holidays are a sump pump of emotions for me. It pulls things out of my heart and throws them at my feet in Ah, Ha like fashion. I can soldier through a year like a beast but get me to end of it and once the sump pump switch is thrown, my heart can fill me with silent yet deadly battles. I feel all the feels of everything.
Expectations- people depend on me for what feels like any and everything. Do I need to breathe for you as well, I want to ask.
Needs- I feel the need to produce a whole year worth of unmet acts of love,services and gifts into a two to three day opening. I am delusional.
Hopes- I am a hope filled person. Failure is not an option. Every thing and every cookie will be beautiful, taste the best ever in the history of the world, be the most memorable holiday, make me the most popular and the winner. I think I have only one moment and everything is banked on this one movie making Rockwell season. Real housewives of West Virginia audition.
Desires- My heart is bigger than my wallet and wisdom will not let me ruin a whole year for one day, although I am tempted beyond belief. I’ve found too much value in things and prejudge others that they have too. So guilt and shame speak in loud voices to me. Of all the times I am not a terrible listener it should be now. Alas.
I’ve done the hard work of training to ‘Be in the Moment’. I’ve conquered that movement and that conference. I am in the moment. I’ve learned the value of fleeting days. I’ve watched so many of them I know what they are. I can now be fully in the moments and know the gift of this blip on my eternal time line. Age may have blessed me with wisdom, but it has not touched my dilemma of perspective.
Doing, serving, being, holding, having, knowing, looking, taking, seeking, stopping, starting, giving….I am an action person. I can and will do all of these things. Easy peasy.
But how many times have I done them without joy? How many holidays did I ‘verb’ my way through without the joy infused in the moment?
Too many, I am afraid.
When I read the phrase ‘Protect the Joy’, it was like a key unlocked this portable cage I’ve dwelt in. Present in every room, every activity and moment- but not really and truly free in the moment.
Protect the Joy.
I had nothing to lose if I tried this new verb. Everything to gain. Immediately, I felt energetic, as if there were a remnant of joy- tinders of previous flames that burned like rocket fuel, hot and fast- were being breathed on.
It was there. Joy. And I began to protect it. Gently at first. Fiercely at the last.
Everything I did, each act of service, every gift given, all my obligations, were filtered through questions about my little, beautiful small flame of joy.
At what point did the meal I was going to serve move from easy and simple to hard and burdensome? Protect the Joy.
Where was the line crossed between a simple expression and token of love (not wallet) and having my identity wrapped up in a package? Protect the Joy.
I was now aware, so very aware, of tick marks on the moments- like on a face clock, aware of subtle changes where Joy would lesson and something sinister and monstrous would begin to creep into the moment.
Robbing me. Stealing from me. Bankrupting Me.
Protect the Joy.
If I was a person who mixed metaphors I would suggest it was like I was being circled by cobras, lulling me and circling me in a twisted reverse of nature, lunging at me to poison me and steal my baby Joy. I attacked them, chopping their heads off before they poisoned me or my moments.
I kept protecting my Joy. Every day. And my joy grew. I could feel it grow. And if I was a metaphor mixer I’d say it was like a child growing beneath my heart, giving to me, recycling my blood into life.
The eleven day stretch of working, company, family gatherings, hosting, shopping, cooking, baking, loving, talking, hugging, …….you know. You know- these moments where I was present in mind and heart, were infused and coated with joy. It became my exoskeleton.
The snakes called overwhelmed, martyr, under appreciated, in debt, cynical & critical, tired and exhausted lay at my feet.
Conquered and ruled over.
I protected the joy.
Like it was a gift from God. Like it was precious. Like it was vital.
Here I am on my 12th day of Christmas- having learned the most valuable lesson of my year:
Protect the Joy.
And the Joy will magnify the moments. The joy will disqualify the thieves of the moments, barring them, locking them up into the cage from where I was freed.
Joy was the key to the perspective of the moments.
This will be my phrase this coming year- Protect the Joy. I will hold joy in my hand like it is sacred. Because it is. I see that now.
So maybe you’ve felt the same way as me, to some degree or other sometime this year. Maybe you’ve mastered ‘being in the moment’ but there’s not joy in those moments. Let’s together hold the joy we do have in our hands like its sacred and as if it is terribly important to our year. Tenderly like it is a gift from God. And let’s protect it and encourage others to as well.
I’m ready for obligations, guilt and shame to not call any shots this year. If it’s from a can or a freezer bag, if I don’t dress up, if it’s the best I can do without crossing the line into bondage for me- I am going to protect the joy.
Because serving, loving, creating, making and baking, hugging, talking, living- done with joy is the mark I want on this new year.
(thank you to the unknown person who wrote the phrase that made a holiday worshipful for me. God knows who you are and I thank Him for your gift to me of words and encouragement.)