You can’t fake joy

So…day 2 of trying to serve my family with joy was not so great.

Firstly, my youngest is in a phase where he is waking up again at 5:00AM. Now that the two boys are sharing a room, this means my eldest is also waking up at 5:00AM.

Only yesterday morning, my eldest was the one who woke his brother up before 5:00AM because he was vomiting. Oh yes. That again.

My poor eldest, we learned, has some food allergies which manifest rather strangely. It was a troublesome month or two, when his teacher would call me a few times a week from school and say, “Joel vomited again.” That was a lot of visits to the doctor, a lot of the kid staying home because we suspected a flu (it was never the flu).

Having traced back the possibility that he ate something he shouldn’t have at a birthday party, and that it was just now hitting his system in that weird, delayed way his allergies work, everyone sprang into action to avoid potential disastrous consequences.

So everyone was up waaaaaaaay too early yesterday.

By breakfast time, my youngest was already worn out. He had a crisis, just because he needed to have one. It happens when we’re tired.

By the time we left for school, they were both exhausted. They were worse than Gremlins.

Serving with joy, when it is Gremlins that I am serving, does not come naturally.

I didn’t fail loudly, at least. I failed quietly. I stayed patient, but there was no joy. It was more, “Let’s just get this over with so that I can hand you off to someone else to deal with you this morning.” Which, in case you are keeping score, is not joy.

I didn’t gleefully sing, “It would be my pleasure to make you lunch…” And when my youngest had another crisis on our way back to school, I didn’t joyfully snap him into his car seat.

It was duty that was my animating force yesterday. And while I would have wanted to do things differently, I couldn’t fake joy.

It’s just truth. You can fake happiness. You can fake optimism. You can fake a good mood. All these things can be faked, because they are external manifestations. It’s other eyes that interpret and give them their meaning.

But faking joy? Can’t do it. Joy is the inside piece.

I can’t fake joy, I complained on my way home from dropping them off at school. So now what?

So I had this mantra in my head, “I can’t fake joy…I can’t fake joy. I can’t fake joy.”

Realizing that I am not able to fake joy cuts deep to the core of who I thought I am. I mean, I am an enthusiast. I am an optimist. I am a glass half-full kinda gal. I like to celebrate. I guess I thought that there was some kind of joy inherent in all these things. As if joy was some kind of character trait that came from within.

If it doesn’t come from within, then where does joy come from? Wouldn’t it be great, like, the way we take vitamins, to be able to take a joy pill, but for real joy, not just temporary caffeinated energy? And, if joy is a virtue, can we grow in joy, the way we can grow in self-control?

And then I remembered something I had read once. It took me forever to find it again. But once I did, I had part of my answer.

“…You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Psalm 45:7

Joy oil? Ooooooh!! I want some of that! Is this something I could ask for? Is this something that I could pray for, and hope that God, who was the one telling me to serve my family with joy, might give me?

At the very least, joy became something that I didn’t have to go digging around in my own soul to find, and I didn’t have to berate myself because I had gone digging around and found myself lacking. Joy was something external.

What was more, joy wasn’t a breath of fresh air, nor was it like water to bring refreshment to the desert… No, joy was an oil. An oil, I like to imagine, that could lubricate machinery that was jerky and grinding and not running smoothly…

That right there, the image that our lives with these fellas are like a machine? That is something that has crossed my mind before. I often see our lives like the derailleur on a bike. (I fix derailleurs rather often, so I kinda like to think of myself as an expert on the subject.) And, from my extensive experience on the subject, derailleurs are always easier to fix when they are nicely lubricated. Oh, this makes them super messy to fix. But they are always easier to fix that way.

So. Is joy like that? Is joy going to make my life messier, but more smooth running?

If the answer to that question is yes (which I am going to submit to be “yes”), then I have to decide….am I willing for things to get messy?

To this I answer with a sigh. I don’t like mess. But if that is what it is going to take… If that is what it is going to take to do what I am told: Serve your family with joy… If that is what it is going to take to be able to live moments of miracles and unexplainable blessing again after 15 years of living a kind of ho-hum existence, then I guess I am going to have to put up with a little bit of mess.

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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