What is “serving”, anyway?

Hah! Yesterday, I wrote about how I was told, in that quiet little secret place in my heart reserved for the words that definitely are not my idea, that if I wanted to start living miracles and amazing situations again, that I needed to start serving my family with joy.

Already, my first afternoon, Sunday, I had been full of thoughts…the same kind I talked about in last week’s podcast. The “why don’t they ever…” or “why am I the one who always has to…” These thoughts, I discovered, are incompatible with joy.

Sure, I can wish that they would do the things that I have asked them to. And sometimes, housework and cooking feels like a fatality. But allowing those thoughts to take hold preclude me from having an attitude, for myself, in the secret place in my heart, of joy.

I struggled with wondering if I was trying to brainwash myself into “being happy,” but I quickly was able to dispel this notion. No. “Happiness” is not what this is about. “Happiness” is not a virtue. But “Joy” is a virtue. Happiness is fleeting. Joy abides.


So Monday was my first full day of trying to serve with joy.

I had thoughts about what this might look like. First, whatever I would do, it had to bring me some feeling of joy.

In my Ideal Life, our table is always beautifully set. So, I set our breakfast table with real dishes and got out my eldest’s Stormtrooper mug instead of the plastic cup he usually uses, and filled it before he could get to the table. These felt like a tiny, tiny steps towards serving my family with joy. For once, breakfast wasn’t just cereal boxes on the table.

I was serving both them and me, as it turned out, since I was actually that much closer to living my Ideal Life. Huh. Funny how that works.

But I had questions. Serving, in my mind, was about doing the things I don’t like to do. Thus, why I was concentrating on the cooking and the sheet changing and the sweeping and the laundry. As the day wore on though, there were other areas in which I realized I was serving.

Like, helping the little guy get dressed. Putting on his shoes (which, although he is capable of doing, he likes to be a little tiny baby, and “baby cannot put on his own shoes.”) Or…shuffling the boys out the door by handing them their coats and hats and gloves.

Quick digression: Do you know one thing I absolutely adore? When someone helps me put my coat on. When, unbidden, they hold it up so I can slip my arms in. That little thing makes me feel so loved, no matter who does it.

Why wouldn’t I do this for my boys? Do unto others as you would have them do for you, right? So I did. I had three occasions yesterday to do this: morning before school, at lunchtime and when my eldest left for his music lessons.

Each time I’d finished helping them slip into their coat, I turned them, and offered to zip it for them. My eldest was not interested in having me zip in the morning, but in the afternoon, he let me. At lunchtime, while I helped my youngest with his coat intentionally, slowly, not in a hurried, harried way, gave me a giant, wet kiss on the forehead. I will not hide from you that I got tears in my eyes.

When I asked them what they would like for their lunch, I made an effort to say, “It would give me great joy to make that for you.” I wanted them to know that I was not viewing their demands (because, let’s be honest, being a short-order cook for little boys is mostly about demands) as an inconvenience. I know that I may have, in the past, let some things slip about this. I know that they deserve better than my bad attitude.

My youngest, who is exactly like me in every single way, was most sensitive to my attitude change. About three hundred times after school yesterday, he sang a little song we had made up together: I love my mama, let me count the ways, to which I am supposed to respond, I love my baby, let me count the ways… So we had a bit of a lovefest yesterday.

So was the lovefest because I was serving? Was it because he sensed an attitude change?

Keeping it up

So. One day is one thing. But is choosing joy sustainable? Is it possible to patiently zip up coats and make two different meals and set the breakfast table with real dishes and hang up laundry in a way that makes me smile (in color order, of course…) or doing all those extra dishes with a smile…is this something I can do for two days? Three days?

Here is what I know: on a regular school day, as long as I am favorably disposed to it, the amount of time I actually spend serving my family is not so much that I lose heart. The true test will come on Wednesday, when they only have a half-day of school?

In last week’s podcast, entitled Episode 10: La Vie en Rose, I talked about how the people we live with do not solely exist to drive us crazy, and that we need to give them the benefit of the doubt. Apparently, I am getting a dose of my own medicine.

Episode 63: Foresight Sing With Your Feet

This week, we look at how we can love ourselves better by planning ahead.
  1. Episode 63: Foresight
  2. Episode 62: Memory
  3. Episode 61: Novelty
  4. Episode 60: How to Have Great Sex
  5. Episode 59: I Have A Theory

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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