I got frustrated with myself last week.
I had a really good day with my son. I try hard to fill our days with a good mix of adventure, rest, healthy boredom and work around the house. One day in particular, I felt like I got the balance just right, but I was sitting there in the afternoon watching my son play with his toys and got frustrated with myself.
Did I enjoy this day enough? These are the days that all parents of older kids will tell you go by far too quickly. And I just had a really good day with my son, but I wasn’t sure I leaned into the joy of it enough. I got frustrated that I might have missed the perfect opportunity to experience a wealth of joy in that near-perfect day.
This question can be broadened even beyond parenthood. I’ve felt it often on vacations, weekends and holidays, too. How do we know when we are experiencing all the joy there is to be experienced?
I think a helpful way to answer this is to first understand an important aspect of joy. Brene Brown explains this so well when she says, “Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments — often ordinary moments.”
Joy is not constant. In parenthood, vacations, holidays. It’s OK if when you look back you realize you were not joyful 100 percent of the time. You aren’t supposed to be.
Health is the full spectrum of emotions. Moving in and out of them, not staying stuck in one. So it’s OK if fatigue, irritation, sadness, overwhelm, contentment, bittersweetness and other emotions are also experienced alongside joy.
You aren’t missing out on joy if you don’t experience it 100 percent of the time. You’re actually emotionally healthy if you experience other emotions.
Now, if you notice getting stuck in some of these emotions and joy being far and few between, check out this post to read a helpful cognitive reframe.
So, the next time you ask yourself if you experienced enough joy in the day, shift your reflection to asking yourself if you allowed yourself to move in and out of your emotional experiences. And if you notice that, within the variety of emotions you experienced, joy was one of them, then yes, you are doing well with your ability to experience joy.
Kylie Larson, MA, LPC