“Happiness usually involves a victory for the self. Joy tends to involve the transcendence of self. Happiness comes from accomplishments. Joy comes when your heart is in another. Joy comes after years of changing diapers, driving to practice, worrying at night, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the yard and just sitting quietly together watching TV. Joy is the present that life gives you as you give away your gifts.
The core point is that happiness is good, but joy is better. It’s smart to enjoy happiness, but it’s smarter still to put yourself in situations where you might experience joy.”
-David Brooks, in NYT article entitled The Difference Between Happiness and Joy
Do you agree with Brooks’ definition of joy? I’m not sure I would have done so 20 years ago. But I just spent a recent long holiday weekend with both of my children, their partners, my husband, my father and his partner. And my joy is exactly what Brooks describes.
It is the years of giving to both the others in the family and (importantly) to myself that provides such pleasure – okay, joy – as I sit listening to the laughter and comments of those I love most. Hear the excitement of some, empathize with the struggles of others, even take a brisk walk. A knowledge that I have given the best I can give to all concerned to help them (and me) be strong and loving people. My giving was not always perfect, but that is okay because I am only human.
It is not the specific path I chose (staying with my husband through horrible struggles and more) that results in today’s joy. It’s the attitude – one in which I chose to be the best me I could be, even when times were hard.
This is not a call to stay with your partner or to leave your partner. It’s a call to look inside yourself and find your best self. Be proud of that person. Live as that person. Do the loving, caring things that person would do – including for yourself. On this path I hope that you will find joy as I have.
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