I have had the distinct pleasure of living in Vermont twice in my life. The first time was from birth to age eleven and the second time was right after I finished grad school, so from age 25-27.
Vermont has mountains. Florida has beaches. Vermont has laws to limit billboards and signage. Florida has more billboards for Disney than I have socks in my sock drawer.
There are lots of differences, I could go on and on.
But one thing they have in common is mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes. And boy oh boy, do they love me!
My theory is that I have thin skin so its easy for them to smell my blood. Or sometimes I think its because I’ve had too much sugar in my diet.
Whatever the reason, I have lots of experience with protecting myself against pesky little beasts that can’t resist me.
But, I owe a lot to mosquitoes. Or at least to my experience of keeping them at bay.
And by “a lot,” I mean my marriage with Brian.
Once upon a time, Brian and I went for a hike up Camel’s Hump.
I had long ago developed the habit of keeping a few essentials in my Jeep at all times. Among them was bug spray and that day, I slipped it in my pocket before we started walking.
Not far along the trail I was getting eaten alive. Brian had yet to feel the first pinch of a hungry skeeter. It is often like that when I am outside and around other people.
I used my trusty bug spray and had a great hike to the top and back down.
We were almost back to the parking lot when we passed three hikers who were clearly being plagued by mosquitos. Without thinking I smiled, said “they are really bad today, aren’t they?” pulled my bug spray out of my pocket, and to give to them.
I let them keep it. It was not something I thought about or contemplated. It was just logical. They needed bug spray and I was done with it. So, I gave it to them.
After we walked away from them, Brian surprised me when he told me how awesome that was. I looked over at him and he was absolutely glowing with a huge goofy grin. That was the moment I realized that he loved me. Without him saying it, that was totally what that look said. Then he told me that he wasn’t used to seeing random acts of kindness (RAOK).
I did not think of what I did as a RAOK. It was just something I did. I shared my bug spray.
Even though I didn’t consider it to be a RAOK, it really was.
It makes me wonder, what inspires us to behave in such a way. What makes us people who are more likely, or not likely, to share a RAOK?
I think there are lots of reasons and one of them is joy. That time in my life was a high point for sure. I was filled with joy on a daily basis. I was content with who I was, where I was, and the people with whom I spent my time. I had few worries. I rarely questioned my purpose and felt sure of myself on a daily basis.
Things have changed since becoming a parent. And age probably has a little something to do with it too. But it doesn’t feel as easy as it once did to live a life of joy. The world feels heavier and many days, there is more to worry about than there used to be.
Sooooo….if we pursue joy in our lives, does that mean that we will never really find it? Does it have to be something that just happens naturally.
I hope not.
I think it might be as simple as being willing to give my bug spray to someone else who is being bitten, and not think twice about it.
Being able to do that brings me joy, and its in the doing of the things that make us feel good where we find sources of joy in our lives. There are other sources too, but taking action in small ways that uplift us and the people around us? Wow….that is one powerful mechanism for creating joy.
What are some of the ways that you experience joy in your life?
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Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.