I hated my middle name growing up. It was embarrassing to admit that my parents had given me such a silly name, following something as formal as Samantha. I mumbled over the “Joy,” only listing my middle initial. When I got married, I never considered not taking my husband’s last name. I had a friend in middle school who had to explain that the woman by his side, with a different last name, was his mother. I pushed the joy aside and replaced it with my maiden name, Colbert.
I used to be a “Julie McCoy Cruise Director,” planning trips far in advance. I enjoyed the anticipation, the research of places to see, eat and activities to conquer. I purchased new flip-flops, bathing suits, and downloaded e-books for the flight. The trips were fun, but the photos framed after the tan faded delivered immense joy. The memories and inside jokes, the stories and suggestions to friends to book their own trips extended my bliss. I also kept a busy social calendar. A rough Wednesday could be managed with excitement over the fun weekend plans highlighted on my planner. These buoys kept me afloat. Then COVID hit.
My happiness strategies were washed away with hand sanitizer, my smile masked. As a working parent, conversations revolved around the Pandemic. An experiment with friends delivered an increase in our moods. I wrote about my quest for “joybursts” and threw out a challenge on Facebook. We spent the winter sharing what brightened our days. We posted when we felt little moments of joy. We learned that joybursts were also contagious.
As a little girl, I loved Russel Hoban’s Frances books. In “Bread and Jam for Frances,” the little badger wrote songs about her love of jam on toast and skipped rope after enjoying every last bite. Her friend Albert exposed her to a new lunch menu each day, carefully displaying his selections like a Pinterest page. Frances learned to add a flower and doily to her tablescape, packed a variety of snacks in her lunchbox, and expanded her palette. She learned from her friend and unpacked a brighter day by adopting his simple tweaks.
Easter hit me as yet another holiday I am not hosting yet again. One son is nursing a new injury, and my other son could not make it home from college. I went hopescrolling on social media and decided we now need multiple joybursts to power us through to the finish line. We are close, but depending on where you live, we still have time before we are all fully vaccinated.
Can highlighting what has brought us more joy, help to build a happier outlook? Many of us have created other humans, so this should not be too much of a challenge. If a video made you laugh yesterday, today, spend a few minutes looking for other clips. If you enjoyed reading a book, maybe it’s time to order a few more titles from your library? If you liked a song that came on your car radio, play that soundtrack at your desk. Once one friend posted how nice it was to buy flowers at the grocery store, many copied and shared. We can help each other. I’m challenging you to not only notice and share your happy moments but play them on repeat so you can build a happier day. Like Katy Perry reminds us, “after a hurricane, comes a rainbow.” Baby, you’re a firework, and it’s time to create a joy explosion.