Choosing Life, Choosing Joy

tinkerbellWhen I was younger, I didn’t understand the proactive role we must play to find joy.

Joy and happiness seemed like magic. Wonderful things could happen over which I didn’t have control.

In elementary school I was stunned when my new sneakers didn’t propel me safely to first base. I remember looking at them in sad disbelief as I trudged back after being thrown out yet again.

And I took off down the street, my mother in hot pursuit, in the middle of my birthday party, in shock that birthdays are not days were everything you do turns out perfectly!

Choosing life can be a tricky tightrope to walk. There’s the danger of tipping too far and becoming a Pollyanna, who pretends everything is sweetness and light, or sharing the optimistic naiveté of Voltaire’s Candide.

And yet, in many cultures there’s the idea of the duality of opposing forces in life, the ying and yang, hinting that there’s more than one way to view an event.

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Typical Pettigrew welcome home. Interested enough to see who is at the door, but not motivated to get up off the couch.

Returning home after a long weekend away, I was struck by Pettigrew’s relaxed demeanor. Neither thrilled to see me nor seemingly in the sulks, he took my arrival in stride. He was primarily concerned I understand that because we had arrived home earlier than expected, he still needed his afternoon snack and a walk.

Our sitter had left moments before and they had had a fabulous weekend together.

Sleeping together on the sofa. Hanging out at a farmers’ market where Pettigrew had enjoyed all sorts of special attention, and, I suspect, treats.

On the one hand, I was thrilled he had had such a delightful weekend. When he was younger he used to pine when we went out of town, refusing to eat and becoming lethargic.

This relaxed, happy dog is exactly the reason we hire a sitter to stay with him.

But, I must admit, there was a pang. While I don’t want him to suffer, it would be nice if he were happy to see me again.

Similarly, I have been preparing myself for our older son, a senior in high school, to go away to school next year.

What I had not anticipated was that our younger son would be busy researching residential summer music programs that start in May, even before the school year is out, and run into August.

As delighted as I am at his independence and initiative in finding these programs, I feel somewhat blindsided by the fact that he is likely to be away for most of the summer.

It’s the duality: we want our children to be independent, but we’re sorry to see them go. Change offers new opportunities and lots of unknowns. My task is to take a step back, see the big picture, and remember to choose the joy.

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