Have you ever found yourself thinking about a certain topic, and you wonder How in the world did I start thinking about this? Sometimes you can figure how you arrived at this thought pattern by unraveling one train of thought after another back to the origin. At other times it remains a complete mystery that makes you wonder if something’s wrong with you.
A lot of my friends and I have what we call pinball conversations because just as in an old-fashioned game of pinball where the ball bounces from bumper to bumper, our conversation bounces from topic to topic. Most of the time there is a connection between Linda’s story about her dog eating daisies and Kathy’s new recipe for brownies, but it would take so long to explain that we would never get to the next “related” story of Joyce's experience at the Charlotte airport.
The other day I was in the kitchen cleaning up the pots and pans from dinner and, despite the riveting nature of the task at hand, my mind started to wander. I found myself thinking of a TV show Paul and I were watching. The show As We See It had hooked us, and we only had a couple of episodes left. I started wondering if we should save them, dole them out carefully and prolong our enjoyment.
A lot of people do this, especially with books. A reader who is in the middle of an amazing story will slow their pace so it won’t end so soon. At this point, my brain took a sharp left turn.
Back in the days when they were teaching us survival skills like the fire safety tips of Stop, Drop and Roll, Gilligan’s Island was a personal favorite, and I was deeply concerned about how to survive if I stumbled upon some quicksand. Somewhere along the way I remember hearing that if a person is stranded in a desert with limited water, he or she is better off drinking a good portion of the water at one time instead of sipping the water trying to make it last.
Isn't that what we do with joy? We save it; we sip it when we could, we should, be enjoying it wholeheartedly. More joy will come.
Putting off joy is something we’ve always been good at. “I’ll go fishing more when I retire.” “You can have dessert AFTER you eat your green beans.” (Although I do understand that one.) Harry Chapin’s song Cat’s in the Cradle is solely about spending time with loved ones LATER. “We’ll get together then, Dad, we'll get together then.”
Our next door neighbor worked right up until her retirement, and within a month she was diagnosed with the cancer that would take her life. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. We postpone vacations; we use the good china only for “special” occasions; we’re afraid of decorating for the holidays too soon because of what people might think.
My grandmother was always the type of person who would seize almost any opportunity to go somewhere, do something, or even just sit and have a conversation with a friend or her granddaughter. She always said that she could guarantee that the laundry, the dishes, the housework would still be waiting for her when she got back, but the chance to have fun wouldn’t wait for anyone.
Life can be hard. Suffering is inevitable in everyone’s life at some point, but so is joy. When it arrives, don’t sip, don't save it; grab it and consume it all. More joy will come. In fact, the better we get at savoring joy, the easier it is to spot it. Why wander through the desert dying of thirst while carrying a canteen of water?