The search for happiness most likely is discovered in our early youth. It can be found on the playground during a perfectly timed recess on a test day in elementary school. It can be sighted at the middle school dance when boy meets girl. As we become young adults, happiness can be found when you receive your first paycheck from your first job and you go out with friends to celebrate. Happiness is wonderful. It is a zealous emotion that is dependent upon outside sources for it to be present. To be happy, we must wait for an external catalyst to evoke that emotion.
As we grow older and more wise (hopefully), we find ourselves less able to do the things we used to and surely not as fast as we used to complete them. We do less working and increase our enjoyment of life and our surroundings. We become settled. One fine day, we sit in our recliners wondering how we became our parents and where the time has gone. As the winds of change blow in our lives, we find a joy in our heart. A glimmer of contentment begins to flicker into a fire. It is truly a good place to be and one that, in our youth, the recipe contentment alludes us as we pursue our slice of the American dream.
Joy is a feeling that does not depend upon circumstances. We can be full of joy when things are not going our way. Joy can be seen in a child who spins her dress in the bright sunshine. It can be found in a toddler who found mommy’s shoes to wear with a feather scarf. Joy can be seen again in a middle aged empty nester watching her adult son throw a ball with his dog. It can be experienced while watching your daughter become a mother. It can also be witnessed as a husband cares for his ailing wife of 54 years. Even when life throws us curveballs, we still can be joyful.
Joy seems to disappear in the larger scope of things during our teen and early adult years. We seem to lose sight of an inner peace as we chase our dreams, create our family, join the proverbial rat race and build a life for ourselves outside of our family of origin. Then, in the fall and winter of our lives, we learn what true contentment is, joy, that was revealed simply by living life. It isn’t something that can be taught as much as something that is discovered internally, realized if you will. We see it in toddlerhood and early childhood as our emotions are not clouded by the cruelty of the world. Then we uncover it again in our hearts as we age.
Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is not contingent. May we embrace our aging bodies because it is through the creation of every wrinkle that we found joy.
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Jennifer Anglin is a motivational speaker, life coach and author who shares personal stories of triumphs and tragedies to give hope to a dying world.