Ah the holidays! I see the nostalgic ads and watch the seasonal movies. They provide snapshots into the moments which bring joy. You know the moments I mean – the smiling family around the dinner table, set impeccably with all the steaming dishes cooked to perfection and served in unison. And the smiling children sitting admiringly by the stately tree, decorated spectacularly with just enough whimsy to match the wrapped gifts below. There are no tape lines or wrinkled paper, just gorgeously adorned packages with straight edges and fluffy bows.
For so many years, I was the one frantically working to bring the warmth and joy of those moments into my family’s holidays. And what inevitably occurred, year after year, is that the effort robbed me of my joy. Those moments were difficult, if not impossible to achieve. And, even if I did achieve them, they were ‘but a moment’ and then gone. And there was an after-math to be dealt with. There was precious little, if any, joy in it. It was all an illusion.
An Illusion of Joy or an Infusion of Joy? Which are You in Line to Receive?
I know I’m talking to most moms here, but I am sure there are other people who need to hear this too. The paintings, ads, and scenes are beautiful. They make us want what they portray. And they’re meant to. Recreating those moments can be exquisite, but we need to be realistic about them. They can only reflect the joy which has already been infused. The idea that they are the source is an illusion.
“The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.”Hermann Hesse
The illusion of joy
One problem with associating joy with a moment in time is that it never tells the whole story. For instance, I might, with much help, manage to get a gorgeous Christmas dinner on the table. If it was photographed and put on social media, you might be caught in the illusion. But it would simply be a moment of time which, in the case of Christmas dinner, is one of hundreds of moments. The rest of them tell the real story of planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, baking, dirty dishes, stress-induced bickering, and so much cleanup.
I might get a photo of the kids smiling by wrapped presents under a beautifully decorated tree. But it would also portray an illusion. Reality would have to include the daily attempts to keep toddler hands off the ornaments, my backache from hunching to wrap packages, and the dog hair in the tape. You wouldn’t know it took 40 minutes of combined time (8 adults making faces and dancing goofy-like for 5 minutes) to get all the kids smiling and looking at the camera for just one good shot.
If you saw the photos of the one singular moment and compared them to the reality in your house, they might steal your joy. But hear me right now – do not base your joy on the illusion someone else puts forth. It is not real. In fact, joy is not something to be achieved. It must already exist.
Social media posts, print ads, movies – all of it seems to give you a glimpse into what your life could, and should, be like. The overwhelming message you will receive this holiday season is that everyone else has it together. Everyone else’s families are getting along. And everyone else’s kids are behaving. Don’t fall for the illusion of joy. It isn’t real!
An infusion of joy
The only way to infuse joy into our homes this season, or any other, is to be fragrant with it ourselves. When things get stressful, when we find ourselves in hot water, and when we’re overwhelmed, we can still exude joy. But it is not our natural inclination and most sources, which claim to offer it, peddle counterfeit goods.
So where does a real infusion of joy come from? Please join me on Friday for a deeper dive into the subject of real joy. If we’re going to infuse it into our family time, we’re going to need it in abundance. We’ll need to know where to find it, how to claim it, and how to know the real from the illusion. It is important and deserves a post of its own.
Which are you in line to receive?
In the meantime, I want to refrain from chasing idyllic moments this year. I resolve to enjoy real ones – moments of joyful imperfection, and to encourage you to feel better about yours. I am going to reduce the workload and increase the laughter – the real stuff, not the staged.
I’ve battled this for years. I hope you’re able to get a handle on it earlier in life than I have. I expect it will only get harder as social media and virtual worlds become more compelling, increasing the discrepancy between what is real and what is perceived as ideal.
I have found some fun ways to infuse new traditions which help preserve my joy and bring everybody in. I will share them in some upcoming posts on this blog. If you’re interested, make sure to subscribe and follow along.
What is the most dreaded chore of the holidays for you? Would you be willing to change up your approach or forego it altogether? What is the most joyful part? How do you plan to ensure its inclusion this year? Are you chasing an illusion of joy or an infusion of joy? Which are you in line to receive?