Recently I was helping an acquaintance try to discover why the Facebook app on his iPhone wasn’t functioning properly. He has a business building surfboards (not unexpected in Kauai). From earlier conversations during televised surfing events (he can identify an event’s location just by looking at the water), I’ve inferred this gentleman has had a lifelong love affair with surfing. I’ve also seen an older photo of him and one of his surfboards – which has a giant shark bite taken out of it. From these impressions and brief conversations, I’ve concluded that this person’s priorities are in alignment with his passion, and he approaches life on a positive, elemental level. I could be totally wrong about this, too.
Not surprisingly, the iPhone’s glitchy performance was frustrating. During our troubleshooting, I discovered that he’d only recently upgraded to a smartphone. He was so delighted to be keeping in touch with friends and family on the mainland via Facebook in addition to the text messaging he’d been consigned to before. Now he was frustrated that all of a sudden he couldn’t comment on or “like” things others had posted. He felt out of the loop and unhappy at being perceived as non-communicative. While we were trying to figure out what the problem might be, though, my surfer friend said something that just stopped me in my tracks.
This situation is robbing me of my joy.
What a succinct, provocative perspective! “This situation is robbing me of my joy.” I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. On a most fundamental level, a frustrating development to which there isn’t an easy solution indeed steals happiness from us. An unfamiliar landscape (or seascape, in my friend’s case?) prevents us from applying what we do know, creating uncertainty and fear. These negative emotions bleed the joy right out of a thriving, healthy approach.
Because my friend’s characterization so captivated my thoughts, I did a quick and literal little Google search on “this situation is robbing me of my joy” to see what else might be out there on the subject. The results were enlightening.
In Robbing Myself of Joy, a writer shares that she understands one of her responsibilities as a mother is to be an example for her children by revealing sources of joy, and how she believes it is one of the most appropriate responses to a given situation. Citing a paradoxical aspect of joyfulness, she says,
we often forget we are capable of joy until we experience it, even if only momentarily.
Think on that one. If we’re forgetting we’re capable of joy until we experience it, we’re missing out on opportunities to approach life in a joyful way. Instead, we’re waiting for something joyful to come to us. Consider the thought that we’re blessed if joy actually makes the effort to travel to our doorstep, not knowing how it will be received!
Lawyer, entrepreneur and business consultant Martin Willoughby counts himself as a minister in the marketplace, counseling that “we can’t do much about the negative circumstances that can pop up in our daily life. The power lies in our choice in how to deal with them.” Willoughby’s perspective, honed by personal experience with lives cut short in his family, is that life is fleeting.
I often think about Dale Carnegie’s familiar quote from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living in which he counsels that we should live our days in “day tight compartments.” When we stop and truly think how blessed we are and how precious the gift of life is, we start to gain a perspective in dealing with our daily problems. I don’t know about you, but if I may only have today, I am going to be on guard to not let anything rob me of my joy.
Elizabeth J. Keller, a spiritual mentor and teacher who advocates a new form of feminism, characterizes the spectrum of acceptance as analogous to joy.
My acceptance or inability to accept what is, is a reflection of my inward-suffering and joy. . . Accept what is, without judgment. Stop fighting, forcing, controlling, trying—all of that creates more havoc, more stress, more distraction; and it robs you of a life of joy.
Suddenly, my surfer friend’s assessment of his technological problem seems even more profoundly in alignment with a bigger picture. Building annoyances up so that they take over your mind, as I often do, gives them a bigger role to play in daily living than they deserve. I thought of how a big wake-up call in the form of an emotionally-devastating setback such as a health crisis or unexpected passing invariably leads to a heightened perspective on what truly matters. In the scheme of things, which has the bigger impact: a glitchy iPhone, or a shark chomping away at your board?
I wish I could say that we solved the problem with the iPhone during our encounter. But, like many things in life, its resolution needed to be deferred. My friend will no doubt report the success or failure of what we thought might be the remedy the next time we see each other in town. And there’s always Plan “B” – an upgrade to a new one – if all else fails. When presented with that alternative, my friend said, “Oh yeah, if the new one comes out in September or early October? That’s just a few weeks, I can live with that.” Acceptance.
What’s robbing you of your joy?