Last Saturday, my boys and I went to a baseball game for my oldest son. It was hot, humid, and admittedly, mommy was already starting off the day a little frazzled. The minute we arrived at the game, my twin sons saw a playground in the distance. “Mommy, mommy can we go to the playground?” I sighed, “No! At least not yet, I have to get your brother situated for the game.” Temporarily satisfied, one twin waited quietly for a couple minutes while the other immediately chimed in: “Mommy, now can we go to the playground?” And so they campaigned, back and forth, until I finally relented. I checked to make sure the game had started and that my older son had all he needed. Then, we trudged over to the playground. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the playground was mostly in the shade.
Still, despite the reprieve from the heat, I was internally a little grumpy. I wanted them to have fun, but I also wanted to see my son play and be close by if he needed anything. I felt like I was constantly shifting my gaze from them to the field and back again. At one point, as I turned to look briefly at the field, I heard both boys exclaim “Mommy, mommy look at this… what’s this thing called?” Looking back in their direction, I saw them both standing near a merry-go-round. “I think it’s just called a merry-go-round.”
They both said the word carefully as if they were testing how it felt in their mouth. Then, they climbed up onto it and said “Spin us! Spin us fast!” I looked anxiously between the field and the merry-go-round and said “I need to watch your brother… and boys you’ll get so dizzy. Can’t you play on something else?” I came up with a million hollow excuses as to why I just needed them to play on the equipment that seemed safer and also did not require my direct intervention to work. But in the end, their faces looked just so hopeful.
So I relented, and I spun them faster and faster on the merry-go-round. When it hit its maximum speed, I stood back and watched them spin with the largest smiles on their faces. They stood on opposite sides looking at each other in wonder. “Mommy, I am not getting dizzy…” they each assured me. “Mommy this isn’t scary at all. It is just plain fun. It’s fun, mommy.” Their words sounding as if they were trying to not only re-assure me but also declare the immense joy welling up inside them. “This is so much fun brother!” one twin shouted across the metal circle to the other. “Yes, we are having so much fun! This is awesome!” the other shouted back. Back and forth, they declared their joy openly and unabashedly for all to hear. “This merry-go-round is just the best!”
Back in January, I decided I was going to try a daily journaling exercise every morning to keep me focused on my goals for the day both personally and professionally. I tried a couple models of journal/planners (I still haven’t quite found the “right” one yet). In each of the journals I’ve tried, however, there has been a consistent question I had to answer each day. “What is your word for today?” And for the last six months, my word has been “Joy.” I have written it every single day hoping that by spelling out the word, day after day, I will be able to not only feel more joyful (even on my most stressful days) but also impart that joy to others. As an introverted person who expresses herself best on paper, I am aware that my joy is not always immediately apparent to others. But I want it to be. And so, I wrote it. Day after day, week after week.
That day, I had skipped my morning practice as often happens on a Saturday, but as I was watching my boys spin and spin I thought back to that word “joy.” Perhaps all along instead of trying to bring joy out from the depths of me, I should have just been participating in theirs. I got home that night and thought “What would have it been like to just jump on that merry-go-round with them?” And spin and spin and smile for all the world to see?
I pray that we may each have the opportunity to experience joy through the eyes of another and let it fill us up.