This time of year is …(fill in with adjectives of your choice). I might choose stressful, busy and expensive but I would certainly also add exciting, magical, and joyful. Everywhere we go, whether in stores, churches, concerts, schools or restaurants, we are surrounded by people who each have a choice to make about how the holiday season will play out for them. You and I have that same choice to make. I would like to suggest to you that it is always possible to choose joy. The ability to create a positive reframe for stressful or negative situations comes through perspective and resiliency. Okay and maybe sometimes through steadfast determination. I’ve played the blame game: you know, where my experiences are everyone else’s fault, but now that just no longer serves me. Even though I am sometimes seduced by my reactivity, especially when I haven’t invested enough time in my own self-care, I am making a conscious effort to find the joy zone.
For example, I went to a Bulk Barn store today to get some baking supplies; holiday baking is a total joy zone for me. A bin had spilled and the cashier was busy mopping up the mess. By the time I went to cash out, she had finished cleaning and was back behind the register. With shoulders tensed and lips pursed she was getting more and more frustrated with herself because she kept forgetting the product codes. She was overwhelmed and exhausted and this was coming out as shortness, huffing and eye rolling. Her anger was contagious, as anger often is, and the lady in front of me in line was giving it right back and more. The voice in my heart said, “Choose joy, Cathy.”
When my turn came, I knew that her anger had nothing to do with me, so I didn’t need to catch it. I told the cashier I thought she had done a great job of dealing with that bin-spill-mess so quickly and thoroughly. I thanked her for allowing me to use my own cloth bag rather than bagging directly into plastic because I knew it would have been faster for her to default to the plastic bag method. And then I told her I was so impressed with how she could remember the product codes and enter them so quickly, and that I wondered if it was because she was entering the codes at super speed, being that efficient, that the silly machine just couldn’t keep up with her. She sighed, paused and looked at me. Then she said, “You know you’re right. That must be it. I’m just too fast for this place.”
“Definitely,” I replied, and then she smiled. Thank you Bulk Barn cashier for trusting me with your emotions and allowing me to witness your vulnerability. This brings me joy.
I know that you and I will face other joy-fork-in-the-roads in the weeks to come. On church pageant day, will I be nervous for the Church Chicks choir I’m conducting, or will I arrive filled with appreciation and pride knowing that music will be made? When I have holiday dinners with my family will I feel threatened and shut-down, or will I open to the possibility of connection? When I look at my bank account balance will I feel guilt, want or lack, or will I be grateful for the abundance of food, resources and fellowship I already have? When I hear my teenaged son sing at his school concert will I fight back tears to avoid embarrassment, or will I let them flow to release my joy? I think Christmas calls us to seek out joy, even though it may be hiding or difficult to recognize. In essence, wasn’t this the journey of the Magi – they were joy seekers? And if we start the holiday season believing that everyone is just doing the best they can in each moment, then maybe we can, with humility and grace, find the ‘joy zone’ within our interactions and experiences.