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There is something to be said for making more joy in your life.

But the question is when?

How?

It’s the constant daily battle that we have going on and on and yet there never really seems to be an answer of what to do when it all comes down to it.

My mother liked to use a circular argument when we were kids to people that would wonder how in the world she got her kids to get up at 5:30AM.

She would get us to go to bed at 8:30PM. And they would ask, how did you get them to go to bed then?

And she would tell them that she got us up at 5:30AM.

This is what I can remember from the age of eleven–anything earlier than that is fuzzy. I remember getting up before middle school and practicing my violin at six am.

I can also be fully cognizant in about four minutes including getting dressed if I really have to.

I also am never going to be one of those people that tells ‘Get up at 4AM and change your life’.

But there is a lesson in all of this that’s massively important and something I overlooked until recently.

My mother held to her word and got us up. She didn’t ask anything of us as children that she was not willing to see through even if she thought it was a little inane to get up that early. But she understood the importance of a schedule and sticking to it.

There are a dozen things that I notice I do that she helped instigate into my life, one way or another, but I’m reminded that she always stuck to the simple things. It was an elaborate method to make our lives what they were.

It was simple habits that made us into the adults we are today.

It’s about figuring out what the right ‘little’ things are.

They give writers advice that they shouldn’t try to tackle ‘the Man’ in a story because it becomes verbose and ridiculous. I think our habits and our lives are the same sort of way.

We have to look at the little things that bring us joy, or take from it, and figure out what works the best with it.

Is music your main go to when the world looks like trash and you’re in a place where nothing is going right?

Find a way to make more music in your life.

I have to make things. I have to create. My inner world is a nasty little bastard when I haven’t made something within the last twenty-four hours. Thankfully, I have a bunch of creative type skills that if I get tired of one, I can always do anohter.

I also like things to be orderly. I like them to be neat.

Do I get excited when things are sparkly clean and I can sit there and enjoy the calmness in my highly colorful space because my bed is made just perfectly, and I’m going to savor it for like five whole minutes.

Do I have children that can muck up that bed in about two minutes after making it? No, but that probably adds to it when I see pictures from my little sister and what her little minions are doing this week.* I love them dearly but sometimes knowing that those aren’t my monkeys, and it’s not my circus is a wonderful thing.

It’s the little promises you actually keep that add up.

I think the biggest thing I ever did for myself was start keeping a to-do list and a done list. I didn’t trust my mind anymore with the things that were needing to be done to get done, and I get a little thrill when I cross something off the list.

But I also didn’t trust my mind when I thought I had done nothing today and in all honesty I had. I had gotten the important things done, just not all of them and I couldn’t always see that. So I listed off the things that had done. l started to pay attention to things that always got done, the things that I liked doing. And then I started paying attention to the things that weren’t getting done.

But here’s a funny thing. I learned that there were four things that I would get done on any given day. I would make my bed. I would read something (we will ignore what I like to call my dead period when I really did do nothing) and I would eat something during the day.

I started with the little things that had to get done.

Then there’s the kicker.

There are the important things, and there was a certain number of times that I would put off an important thing before I would just do it. So I started putting the important things on the to-do list sooner. I lied about deadlines to myself. I would tell myself it was due the 14th but it was really due the 21st.

I confused a few classmates, but hey–we got our worked turned in on time.

I started to learn where I liked having choices and things were I just wanted to decide ahead of time.

I didn’t want a variety of soda, I just wanted Dr. Pepper until i got tired of the taste for a bit, drank Mtn. Dew for a while and then when back to Dr. Pepper.

I didn’t want to match my colors in the morning when I got dressed, just give me a clean black t-shirt and jeans of some kind and I’m good to go. I learned that I liked cardigans for a while and have a couple and then gravitated back to flannel shirts so that I’m not cold.

Part of it is knowing that I only have so much attention in the day, and that I don’t want to waste any of it on things that could be decided in advance. It’s not efficient.

Now, if this seems a little much to you, realize that I have spent the last decade becoming the person I am today. Sure, there were things that led into my adult self, but I wasn’t actively trying to do anything about it.

I was merely coasting along on what I had known.

Making joy is a promise.

It’s one that you have to keep to yourself.

You’ve spent the last week thinking about the things that bring your joy. Now, how are you going to make the time.

Is is a list of things to do? Is it a note you’re going to stick on the wall where you’re going to see it all the time?

Is it a thing that you’re going to say you’re going to do, but never do?

It’s not about making your whole entire week about having joy in your life.

It’s about five minutes a day.

Five minutes a day, when you’re actively looking for it sounds like no time at all. It is, after all thirty-five minutes in a week. It is less than 0.3% of your time.

But you’re going to want more. It’s going to drive you from day to day, because you’ll have the joy to find.

But remember that you’re looking for joy.

Not happiness.

Joy doesn’t always come in shining armor, all pretty and new.

It’s getting your roof racks on all by yourself in under an hour even if the measurements from the company didn’t work. You’re sweaty and nasty afterwards. You’ve said a few choice words but when you look out at your car you see a finished task that is going to make traveling a lot easier in a few months.

It’s finally getting all your stuff in the kitchen into the cupboard and still having room for your roommate to put her stuff. You did live there alone for nearly a year, okay?**

Sometimes is is that cool thing when you get 2500 words written in one day while you worked a full shift at work and had the words coming because you’ve made it a point to sit in the chair and write, even if it’s garbage some days.

Sure there are going to be the things that suck the life out of you. Think about it, and decide if that is a thing that you need to do what you love– like washing dishes because you cooked delicious food– or if that is something that won’t get you some form of joy along the way.

Like that two hour commute for the job that is so dull but it just pays the bills.

How you do that I just don’t know. And I drove eight hours a day for a living.

So this week, I want you to actively find five minutes a day for joy this week. Write it down. I do recommend keeping a running list of things that bring you joy. It is sometimes the best medicine for a bad day to remember the good that came out of it.

With that, I’ll see you all next week.

*Send more pictures, I have to live vicariously through you.
**Speaking of, I need to finish cleaning that cupboard to move some other things.

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