Friday, December 27, 2013

Here's to more joyful moments in the new year

From today's Briefing:

My Year of Joy is nearing its end.
Back in January, I was encouraged by speaker Jon Gordon to choose one word to help define 2013. (He is co-author of One Word That Will Change Your Life.)
I considered two other words — quality and balance — before selecting joy. Choosing the word in no way guaranteed instant joy.
In fact, when reviewing the past year, it would be easy to list all of the decidedly less-than-joyful moments.
I had the flu.
I tore my left calf muscle.
Our air conditioner broke, causing water to drip from the attic, through the ceiling and into our kitchen.
Budget cuts eliminated some of my freelance work and income.
My mom passed away.
There’s no way to spin those events as full of cheer.
But because I had chosen to define 2013 as my Year of Joy, I made extra attempts to look for good in spite of the bad.
When I was down and out, family and friends picked up the slack.
On the worst day of my winter flu, the weather was damp, cold and dreary. The slightest movement was painful. And then the phone rang.
It was the middle school nurse with news that Cooper had injured himself during P.E. and required pain reliever.
Earlier that day I had pinky-promised (via text message) a friend that I would call on her if needed. So I called, and she changed her plans midcourse and delivered ibuprofen to my son.
A week after my freelance work was severely cut, I received a phone call from a friend of a friend of a former client. Thirty minutes later, I had gained some new work — not enough to cover the loss but enough to remind me to worry less.
In the two weeks after my mom died, I didn’t cook a single dinner. Friends delivered meals or hosted us every night.
Her memorial service was a lovely reminder, too, of the goodness of people and life. Mom’s slideshow traced 62 years of hairstyles and locales, hugs and laughter — immeasurable joy captured and saved forever.
And I haven’t even gotten to the pure, unadulterated good.
I was hired very last-minute to teach fifth-graders at our neighborhood elementary school, fulfilling a goal set back in 2008.
Ever since, I’ve been spending my weekdays with 47 children, teaching the American Revolution and branches of government, collective nouns and superlative adjectives, text structures and elements of drama.
Truly, it’s a dreamy job.
Katie has been playing violin, becoming less squeaky every day. Cooper plays real, recognizable tunes on his clarinet. They both exude joy when making music.
Really, they exude joy most all the time.
Together we watched dolphins play in the waters of South Carolina and gaped in awe of elk walking in front of us in Oregon. We marveled at the vivid colors inside the Library of Congress and paid homage to our collective favorite president at the Lincoln Memorial.
I survived my fourth year as a single, widowed mom. I once celebrated getting through days, then weeks, then months. It’s a big deal that I’m counting only years.
Of course, I don’t expect to give up on joy in the new year or any other year. I plan to keep on rejoicing in little moments and silver linings, big victories and glimpses of hope.
The big question now: What one word will define 2014?
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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