Joy on Demand

Are you able to experience joy whenever you want? Here’s what I’ve figured out about how to do that…

What a Drag It Is

As Mick Jagger famously said in the Rolling Stones’  Mother’s Little Helper, “What a drag it is getting old.”

And while I don’t generally disagree with that point – it is a drag getting old – there are some definite upsides to aging, namely advancements and improvements in:

– Wisdom.

– Maturity.

– Perspective.

With these advancements and improvements, I’ve learned valuable lessons like:

– Never offer advice unless it’s specifically requested.

– People often project an image that is the exact opposite of what they really are/don’t judge a book by its cover.

– It really is better to give than receive.

– Money truly doesn’t buy happiness.

Joy On Demand

Another upside that has resulted from my additional trips around the sun is getting to the place where I’m able to experience what I call “joy on demand.”

What I mean by that: I’m now able to experience joy – real, actual, significant joy – almost whenever I want by simply recognizing and acknowledging the absence of calamity in my life at any particular moment in time.

Yep, that’s all there is to it.

Whenever I need a little bump, a psychological boost or I just want to feel better, I stop what I’m doing and I thank God that there’s nothing terrible or tragic happening in my life that day.

I express gratitude for the simple absence of a major negative in my life at the time.

Because of my past experiences in dealing with adversity, I’ve reached the point in life where I’m all too aware of what it’s like to live through the down times. I remember those times with great clarity, because some of them were very painful.

As such, I now find myself in this place where I’m able to experience joy by just thinking about the fact that I am not in the middle of a crisis of some variety.

Young and Ignorant

Of course, it wasn’t always this way for me.

When I was younger, I lacked the perspective and the life experience to think in such terms.

Back then, my view of things was immature and not fully formed.

I was ignorant and unrealistic.

I thought life was a proverbial bowl of cherries.

Accordingly, when things didn’t go absolutely perfectly in every aspect of my life, I was easily upset.

Now, looking back at how I often behaved, I’m embarrassed.

Not only was I not experiencing “joy on demand,” I was almost never experiencing joy, period.

A Long and Painful Learning Curve

But, somewhere along the way, life began to teach me some hard lessons…

…I tore up a shoulder in a skiing accident and had to sit on a couch doing nothing, trapped in my then-girlfriend’s apartment, three hours from home, for six weeks.

…my dad died.

…I lived through the real estate crash of 2008, ish, in which I had six-figure losses on my tax returns for three straight years, and I nearly went bankrupt.

…a 20 year “significant other” relationship ended.

…I suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, and had to lay around doing nothing for another six weeks.

…my stepdad died.

…I tore my Achilles, and – yep, you guessed it – I had to lay around for yet another six weeks waiting for by body to put itself back together.

Exactly as it is for all of us, stuff happens.

A New Perspective

And we learn from those experiences.

We grow, and we change.

Over time, as I moved through these dark seasons of life, I began to gain a much greater appreciation for the mornings when I wasn’t sitting motionless waiting for my shoulder to rebuild itself.

…and for the afternoons when I wasn’t looking at my bank statements wondering how I would make ends meet (yet again) that month, and deciding if I had to take out (yet another) advance on (yet another) credit card.

…and for the nights when I wasn’t struggling to simply get from point A to point B inside my house, crashing into walls using a knee scooter, or crawling up and down my stairs on my hands and knees, because I couldn’t put any weight on my leg.

…and for the times when I wasn’t missing my dad, or my stepdad.

Absence of a Negative vs. Existence of a Positive

Somewhere in the midst of all those experiences over all those years, the absence of a negative began to take on more meaning, more value and more significance than the existence of a positive.

I think that’s at least in part because the negatives tend to have greater relative impact than the positives.

Calamities often last longer, they frequently elicit more of an emotional response, and they can leave permanent scars, both psychological and physical.

And that’s where the good in all of this arises: because – once you come to the realization that, on a relative basis, the negatives often feel worse than the positives feel good – every day without calamity is a cause for celebration.

I recall reading somewhere that people are more motivated by pain avoidance than they are by opportunity for gain. I think what I’m saying here is consistent with that.

As such, every day without a major negative then becomes an opportunity to experience real, legitimate, heartfelt gratitude.

And real, legitimate, heartfelt joy.

Most Days Are Devoid of Disaster

The really good news: for most of us, thankfully, most days are devoid of calamity.

Meaning most days are great opportunities to experience the joy that comes from the simple recognition and acknowledgement  of that absence.

So, the next time you’re down or depressed or your attitude needs an adjustment, ask yourself one question: are you experiencing calamity at the moment?

Is something terrible or tragic happening that day?

If the answer is yes, then your psychological condition may indeed be justified. We’re all human, we all go through down times and negative experiences, and we just have to keep the faith, ride them out and hope they pass quickly.

But if the answer is no, then begin to express appreciation and gratitude for the absence of calamity in your life.

What Motivated Me to Write This

My mother, who will be 88 next month, now essentially lives with me (she spends her nights at my home).

Most nights, we follow the exact same routine: I prepare dinner, we play Yahtzee (go ahead and laugh, it’s OK), we watch Wheel of Fortune (OMG; did I just write that publicly? Lame AF, I know), and we watch Jeopardy.

And when I say, “Most nights,” I mean pretty much every single night.

I’m not going to lie: sometimes, the routine gets a little old.

I’m a bit bored with Yahtzee, and I have never liked Wheel.

There are many other things I’d rather do.

But every time I’m tempted to want to change the routine, or whenever I begin to experience negative feelings or emotions relating to these things, I flip my “joy on demand” switch into the “On” position, and I’m ever so thankful that I have the opportunity to spend the time with my mom, and that the calamity that is out there somewhere on the horizon as it relates to my being able to spend time with her is deferred another day.

I know the day is coming when I won’t have such opportunity, and I know how hard that’s going to be.

On that day, I will experience massive emotional and psychological trauma.

I know that day is coming, and there is nothing I can do to avoid it.

So, I’m going to experience the joy that such perspective brings, each and every day in which I’m blessed enough and fortunate enough to be able to do so.

Enjoy the Days Without Calamity

Enjoy the days without calamity.

Experience the joy that such perspective can bring.

Be thankful for every single moment in which you can simply live your life in a reasonably normal manner, unburdened by the adversities that are a natural, normal and recurring aspect of each and every one of our lives.

My Hope for You

We all grow and mature and figure things out at different paces and with different rhythms.

Maybe you learned nothing from this post.

Perhaps you figured things out earlier in life than I did (and I’m sure that’s the case for many).

Or maybe you’re like me, and it took some time to learn some of life’s more valuable lessons.

Wherever you are in this process, I sincerely hope you’re able to experience what I’m now able to experience: joy on demand.

It’s something I’ve come to appreciate deeply.

I hope you do, too…