Archives for January 18, 2011

Recapturing Joy

This time of year is difficult for me.  I do not react well to seemingly endless cold, gray days.  My children don’t seem to either as arguing, crying, and whining seem to always become more prominent parts of our days in January and February.  Last week, I was determined to recapture joy somehow and to share it with you.  But it seems that there is no time lately to slow down, to find the little pockets of joy that surely do surround me every day.  So I find myself sitting down to write something that is quite different from what I first intended to share.

My mind is working overtime trying to juggle homeschooling, housework, being a gentle mother, feeding everyone (sometimes that feels like such a huge challenge in and of itself!), in addition to the other endless tasks that I could write here, and saving a few minutes for myself at the end of the day.  It seems that those minutes for myself are becoming harder and harder to come by and that they typically only come at the sacrifice of needed sleep, and I find myself becoming angry and bitter and just plain sad.  I am not sure if I need to work harder to make my brain forget about the never ending work that surrounds me, so that I can let go and relax a bit more each evening, or if I need to work harder to let go of myself more, to be more selfless.  There is a line there that must be walked, that whole balance thing, that I am afraid I am not very good at.

Motherhood is a tricky business.  There is so much joy here, but also so much room to set ourselves up for unhappiness with possibly unrealistic, unreasonable, and unkind expectations of ourselves. 
One day when my children are grown, I want the feelings that arise when they look back on their childhoods to be feelings of love, acceptance, joy, and warmth. While I am getting better at remembering the happy portions of my own childhood, the feelings that typically arise for me when I look back are fear, fear that as a thirty three year old woman, I still can’t escape, and anxiety.  This is the story of a child who grows up in an abusive home, and I think that my desire for my children to have a radically different growing up experience from the one I had sometimes gets the best of me.  Maybe I am a bit too ambitious in the “be a perfect mom” category.  The problem is that when I aim too high, I often miss, and then I feel bad about myself and as a result I become a less joyful mother, and less of the mother I want to be.
I am thankful that this month, the theme in my Small Steps for Catholic Moms book is JOY.  Joy is what I need right now, and thank goodness that we are just taking small steps together, because that seems to be all I can manage right now.  I think that the key is to take those steps, to make yourself be deliberate in seeking joy.  It is far too easy to sink into negativity when you are tired and maybe a bit overworked.  But I would much prefer to be a happy tired, than a nasty feeling sorry for myself tired that snaps at her children, when what she wants to be doing is promoting peace and love.

Each Tuesday Elizabeth is inviting those of us who are reading Small Steps to join her in sharing our own small steps.  This month, those steps being toward joy.

During the first year our adopted boys were with us, I struggled greatly with staying positive and joyful, and one thing that I found very helpful for me was to deliberately search for things that made me happy, take pictures, and then share them here.

So this morning, when we woke to a world covered in ice, I threw on a bunch of layers, and headed outside with my camera to take pictures of the beauty around me.
I often find winter photography uninspiring, but today was different.  The entire environment was transformed by the ice, and it was beautiful.

Over the next week, I am going to be taking my own small steps toward easing up on myself a bit, and recapturing joy (and I will probably organize some drawers or clear some horizontal surfaces because that always helps.)  In the process I am going to take pictures, so I have joy to share next Tuesday.

In the meantime, more important than anything is that I remember to smile at my children, and to show them love.  That will mean much more to them than daily drawing lessons, perfectly planned meals, and all those other things that I strive for.  Maybe someday I will find that elusive balance.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought to snip some forsythia and bring it inside to brighten my kitchen.  This week it’s been so gray outside, but these little blossoms have been opening one by one, and they help me to remember to smile.  I am reminded that sometimes you have to “force” things. 

So if I don’t feel like smiling (or if my happy forsythia photos come out gray and yucky),

I think I’ll just fake it.  The joy will come, it’s mine for the finding.