Friday, February 17, 2012

Finding the joy

Today, like most days, consisted of a mixture of things, both good and bad.

The bad:
  • Discovering our once smooth and flawless black leather bound wedding album had been "decorated" with an unknown, sharp and pokey object.  Thank you, Ryan.
  • Forking out $70 to fill my gas tank. 
  • Discovering my pink sweater, which I'd worn one time, and which I'd intended to air dry but inadvertently thrown into the drier, was now two sizes smaller.
  • Forking out $35 at Lowe's for new brackets and sliders for our kitchen drawers, which are falling apart.
  • Having to intervene during one of many fights between the kids - this time, over a chair at our kitchen table - the same chair they fight over every single day.  Why on earth this chair holds an ounce of value over the other identical five is beyond me.
  • The resurfacing of unsettled feelings toward an individual with whom I've struggled for years.
  • Pulling weeds.
  • While sweeping the front porch, discovering my favorite green flower pot, shattered below the porch banister, from where it had fallen.
  • Other circumstances, disappointments and frustrations, too personal to share.
The good:
  • Gorgeous weather.
  • No school (though there were moments today when I would have categorized this with the bad).
  • Receiving a UPS tracking number, indicating that my camera, which has been in Nikon's hands since January 17th, is FIXED and on its way home to me, expected to arrive Monday before noon!
  • Seeing, enjoying, visiting, venting and laughing with two of my closest local friends.
  • Receiving a text message from my sister-in-law, informing me that our sweet nephew will be arriving sometime tomorrow!
  • Pondering the comforting words from a Priesthood blessing I received on Sunday.
  • Receiving a heartfelt phone call from my brother.
  • Watching Chloe practice her ballet routine to "Music Box Dancer" for her first and upcoming dance recital in May.
  • Movie night with Neil.
  • Ryan wandering downstairs at 11pm, requesting a drink of water, which led to being carried back upstairs "silly" by Daddy, Daddy then reading aloud to Ryan Alma 25, to which Ryan said "the end" as Daddy closed the book; then some snuggles and kisses, which entailed Ryan, at one point, saying to Daddy, "I kissed Mommy and Mommy kissed me. That's silly." all before racing (and beating) Daddy from our bedroom to his, and quickly falling back into dreamland. 

Some days really stink.  People say hurtful things.  Your child throws a tantrum the size of China.  You can't justify buying that super cute throw pillow at Target even though you realllly want it.  Your body aches.  Then other days seem close to perfect.  You wake up actually wanting to exercise.  You remember to bring your coupons with you to the grocery store.  Your husband tells you you're pretty.  Your friend willingly watches your child so you can go to the temple.  No matter the combination of events that take place on a day-to-day basis, there will always be some good and some bad.

The topic of my young women's lesson on Sunday was Finding Joy Now.  As part of my preparation, I read President Thomas S. Monson's talk from October 2008's General Conference entitled, Finding Joy in the Journey.  I think I highlighted more of it than I didn't.  It contained many needed reminders about life, the use of time, and change.  It was powerfully written, and I needed every single sentence. 

Monson started by talking about the "inevitable aspect" of life, that being change.  Said he, "Nothing is as constant as change."  Then, after reminiscing about the many changes that had taken place over the 45 years he had been an Apostle, he said, "The changes over a period of 45 years that were incremental now seem monumental."  Isn't this so true in all our lives?  The every day occurrences often seem monotonous and uneventful.  Yet these days turn into years, years into decades.  And before we know it, the boring and mundane have produced some of life's most significant moments and milestones.  Monson goes on, "This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."

The second to last sentence about "that illusive and nonexistent future when [we'll] have time to do what [we] want to do" just makes me laugh.  It's like that board on Pinterest we've all created, containing ideas and projects that we'll all get to "someday," even though deep down, we know it'll never happen because inevitably, something else will always fill our time.  I love Monson's way of conveying both humor and truth in the same sentence.    

In referencing The Music Man, one of Monson's favorite musicals, he quotes Professor Harold Hill, “'You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.'” 

I emphasized this point to my young women, that we so often sit and waste away our days, dreaming about perfect, future tomorrows, when the reality is those days are never going to come.  That's not to say twelve and thirteen-year-old girls don't have plenty to look forward to: high school, first dance, first date, driver's license, college, marriage, motherhood, etc.  These are all wonderful things, but not one of them defines or guarantees perfect happiness.  Disappointments and opposition are simply inevitable.  No matter how you live your life, you can never escape these things.  What you can control is how you spend your time and what type of attitude you have.

Monson shared a short but powerful story, about a father who had promised to take his young boys to the circus, but received a phone call from work requesting his immediate assistance.  After telling whomever it was that business would have to wait, he hung up the phone and came into the kitchen, where his wife and sons sat, waiting for him and expecting the worst.  When his wife, who assumed he'd be going into work, said, "The circus keeps coming back, you know," as a way to brush off the disappointment, the father replied, "I know, but childhood doesn't."

Monson shared another few remarks about making the most of our time with regard to parenthood.  Of the things he said, I loved this most: "...Be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know.

Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of 'what if' and 'if only.'

Then, in talking more specifically about gratitude, Monson said this:
"Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings.

Said one well-known author: 'Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.'"


"If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sings, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues."

Despite the changes which come into our lives and with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days—as much as we can—with those things which matter most. May we che
rish those we hold dear and express our love to them in word and in deed."

I felt like so much of this talk was written just for me.  Too often, I allow the distractions of life to fog my view of what's really important.  Slowly, though, I'm coming along.  As life presents its many surprises and changes, both good and bad, I am learning better how to just roll with it, and enjoy as much of it as I can.  Life really is short, and even though it's hard to see it sometimes, there are millions of reasons to feel joy and gratitude along the way.  My wedding album may look not as pretty as it once did, my pink sweater may not fit right anymore, and, at times, I may strongly despise motherhood.  But without a doubt, my blessings outweigh my struggles.  And those blessings continually bring to me immeasurable joy and happiness.

As President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, "In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."


The Andersens said...

The winter we first got married I threw Brad's green wool Polo sweater in the dryer. I shrank it so much that it is now the perfect size for me. Bad day for him. Good day for me. (That Christmas Grandma Jean gifted him a new one though :))

mistyb said...

I feel the same way friend. I just taught the same lesson and felt like it was definitely more for me than anyone else. You are a great example and a great friend.

Wendy said...

I'm pretty sure there was a reason I didn't read this blog post until today. It's been one of those bad days (actually it's been a bad week, and in general a bad couple months). Thanks for this post to put things back into perspective for me.