Keeping Space For Joy In The Chaos

Here’s what I didn’t tell my dear friend who came with her family to visit for the day, when she said how well it seemed I was doing in this season of life.

That I used my flatiron (yes, the one I use on my hair) to fix the hem of my shorts that afternoon before she came to the house.

That I did so before I realized the same approach wouldn’t work on my blouse. So, as they were almost arriving, I broke down and real-ironed just the front of it, assuming that was the only side that would show in pictures.

And that it took me two different online grocery pick-up orders, plus a physical trip into the store, because I was so scattered in my list-making for our families’ time together.

Or that the night before, I mindlessly gave my toddler son my toothbrush to use. Which he did. Only after which he told us it wasn’t his, or else I wouldn’t have even realized it. Which definitely left me wondering how many times I might have done that before.

It’s not necessarily that my friend was wrong in her assessment of things. But in the brief visit, she certainly didn’t see the full spectrum of disjointed- and randomness that is right now. What she did see, I believe, was something hinting at joy.

What she witnessed the moment that prompted her comment was my affirmative response to my toddler’s request to sing with him, microphone shoved in my face. This was as I supervised baby girl’s finger food, while simultaneously finishing inside dinner prep and shuttling gear outside to my hubby at the grill. This get-together was in the context of the morning’s tour of my organization’s office, followed by chatting about my current full-time professional role and work-from-home, flex schedule.

I am pretty sure she made the comment because of something like joy found in the chaos. And it’s true. I can find it. IF… if I stay still enough, if I am faithful to slow the race of life and thoughts.

Like I did the past month – and how can it possibly be a month already? – not writing because it felt truly one of the only discretionary changes I could make to have a few less things running through my brain. Sometimes I have to commit to turn off thoughts, one by one, to find that stillness.

And so as I practice that, here is what I am learning about the specific choices that help me keep the space for joy in this season of chaos.

Let go of control. I choose not to stress about things I can’t influence. That might be my baby girl’s sleep (or lack thereof) schedule, the weather that interrupts plans or someone else’s attitude. If it’s beyond my control, I won’t let it control me.

Let go of perfection. For example, I choose in this season to welcome others into my home without worrying about every last spot of cleaning or a fancy dinner presentation. Or crease-less clothes. If someone stands ready to critique those things, we might have less of a relationship than imagined.

Be ok disappointing others. I choose to not carry guilt if I say no to an invitation, don’t serve or volunteer in ways I once did or even work myself out of a few commitments right now. Engaging in activity only for the condition of pleasing or impressing others is wrong at any stage in life.

Reground often. When the chaos crescendos, I choose to remind myself of top priorities and take steps back from anything that distracts from living into those. Sometimes even good and pleasurable outlets take you away from what is truly most important.

Keep the longterm perspective. In those moments I am so tired and wonder how I can possibly take another whirl at the same merry-go-round of routine, I choose to repeat that this is a passing moment I will one day long to relive. I simply cannot take it for granted now.

Extend myself grace. All of this requires me to be gracious with myself and avoid the pressures I put on me more than others do. I choose to be patient and forgiving when I don’t meet a goal as originally penned or I don’t keep these healthy practices.

And that is how my curled short hems, wrinkly-backed shirt, first-name status at grocery pick-up, and joint toothbrush usership might just have show up as something akin to joy.

Because willfully choosing to still my mind and soul really does allow joy to shine through the constant, beautiful chaos that is this chapter of life.

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