One morning as I was making coffee, I was listening to a radio program. The woman being interviewed had a son with severe disabilities. She described in detail the extensive care her child required and how she, on her own, had taken care of him and his five siblings. There came a point she said, when she just could not do it anymore. She was completely overwhelmed and exhausted by the physical and emotional demands of her life. She thought she would break down if she had to do it one more day. “And then,” she declared, “I chose joy.”
At that point, she changed her whole perspective on her life’s circumstances. She willed herself to find the blessings and rewards in taking care of her son. She appreciated her son’s abilities instead of focusing on his disabilities. She discovered the ways she could learn from her situation and grow as a person. She chose joy.
Her attitude was more than simple “mind over matter” or making lemons into lemonade. It was not being in denial. She scoped out her situation and made a conscious decision about how she was going to live her life.
Most of us don’t think about joy as a choice. If we even consider the subject, we may think about it as something that happens to you when everything in your life is right. But is that ever the case? Isn’t there always something “wrong”? Aren’t there always problems, disappointments, frustrations that prevent us from choosing joy?
Joy can be more overarching than and not as precarious as happiness. It is a state of mind and a state of heart. Viewing joy as a decision leaves room to consciously acknowledge that everything may not be great in your life, but you are going to choose it anyway. When we select other things in our lives: jobs, mates, friends, schools, we consider the alternatives and, ideally after introspection and reflection, we choose what is meaningful to us; we choose the course that we think will be best. We have a much better opportunity to lead a satisfying life if we do not wait for an event to occur (or stop occurring) to cause us to be happy or content. The circumstance we most desperately want may never happen so we, nonetheless, must discover a way to live life with joy. If you tend to view yourself as a raft adrift in the sea of life, try changing that image to captain of your ship. Choose joy.