Seeking Joy in Difficult Times


Seeking Joy in Difficult Times

Whenever I used to see a lawyer colleague of mine, he would always ask, “Kerry what are you doing to bring YOURSELF joy?” He didn’t want to hear about my work, my volunteerism, or what I was doing for others, even if those things made me happy. He wanted to make sure I was doing something for me. Me. Not my clients or my friends or my association. His point was that without making sure I was doing something for myself, just for me, I was at risk of burnout or worse.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The world continues to have ever-escalating conflict. There are serious human rights violations. Lives are at stake. There are so many suffering food insecurity and who are negatively impacted by the state of our economy. In our justice system, there are a multitude of problems to be solved. It can be a lot, especially if you are a person who thinks critically, seeks understanding, and wishes for stability. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed or tired. Maybe even hopeless. Certainly not joyful.

With the calendar year-end, those in private practice are busy trying to meet their hourly targets and collecting fees. Many are setting expectations for the future. Pressures mount, especially self-imposed pressures. It can be hard to be joyful in those circumstances.

Despite all this (and likely so much more you’ve thought about), we can find joy.

In this latter third of the year, we have many celebrations of culture, religion, community and family. Traditions passed from generation to generation. Reflections of commitment, renewal, thanksgiving, and the triumph of good over evil. For many, these holidays or festivals support a connection to joyfulness. Taking this time to focus on those celebrations and to be with family and friends starts to refill the bucket of joy.

My wish for each of you is to give yourself permission to refill your personal bucket of joy. It is okay. It isn’t wrong to do that. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about world events, or the inequities in our society. It certainly doesn’t mean you are selfish. You are restoring yourself so you can maintain constructive dialogue, work on solutions to problems, look after your family, be a good friend, etc. Whatever you do to bring yourself joy without negatively impacting others is great! Whether that is obsessing over Taylor Swift, re-organizing a cupboard, jamming with a friend, growing a plant, running every day, or conquering worlds in video games, that’s just fine. Create that little space for just you. Then, keep it going. Fill your bucket of joy to the brim. Let it spill over to your kids, your spouse, your family, your colleagues. That’s how this works.

Refilling the bucket of joy might mean you have to put down some other things you might be carrying. Maybe you don’t have to go to every social event of the season. Maybe you get up an hour earlier. Ask for some help to get a job done. Put the monkey on the back of the right person rather than you. You know what I mean. It might be difficult (it certainly is for me), but you will feel better and be on your way to refilling that bucket.

My bucket of joy has always been refilled by time with kids. They are the most fascinating creatures and I love watching them figure out the basics of our world. My December is enriched by time with my friends and family as long as I create the space. Challenging as that might be, I know I have to give myself permission to clear the decks for that bucket to be filled. I know you can do that too. Wishing you much joy.

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