A little joy goes a long way

I don’t know why it took me so long to add music to my cell phone, but now it has made the difference between going for a jog or not. Though I love yoga, I need something else too, some consistent cardio in my routine. I love the simplicity of a jog- put on sneakers, walk out the door, back in forty-five minutes. I only jog about half of my route, and walk the other half, but it’s enough. I like how I feel after the jog. But I just didn’t like doing it.

Problem was, my inner rebel (or is it my inner sloth?) would put her foot down at the mere thought of jogging.

It’s too hard.

It’s too hot out, cold out, wet out. (She has a point)

It’s boring.

I don’t even like running.

Turns out, I just had to add a little joy. A little joy goes a long way.

When my kids were little, they made a game out trying on the next season’s clothing to see what still fit (named the fashion game). Cleaning up or helping to prepare meals could be fun. Learning, when it’s organic and unforced, is full of joy. Brushing and flossing teeth before bed was often a sisterly ritual, one that sometimes had to be hurried along as their chitchat continued past bedtime. And to this day, my youngest daughter plays her favorite music when she has a lot of laundry to put away, to make it a pleasant task.

It’s easy to figure out kids are more cooperative when there is joy involved. But guess what? Adults aren’t much different. We need joy too, and lots of it.

Tasks that are often tedious really can be fun.   Joy can make all the difference.

It turns out music was the joyful, magic ingredient to my morning jogs.

Oh Spotify, how I love thee. I named my first playlist Jogging. How much more enjoyable it has become to put one foot in front of the other while the Dixie Chicks, Darius Rucker, Toby Keith and Tom Petty are belting out their tunes. Oh Joy! Now my brain associates lacing up my sneakers with hearing some of my favorite music. And as a bonus, I often return from these jog-walks with an idea for an article drafted in my head.

I like dessert. I really like dessert. Which brings me to more joy.

I’ve cut those addictive sweets out of my life, as told in this post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/farewell-my-sweets/

Say what?! Nooooo.

Enter the joy of Dessert Substitutes. I am having fun finding dessert recipes that are sugar free and gluten free (the two ingredients that make me tired, unhealthy, creatively blocked and yet make me want more, more, more).

I have made delicious, flour-free cookies sweetened with stevia, and smoothies made with greek yogurt, frozen fruit and veggies. But there are so many more recipes for healthy desserts to try, I will never grow bored.

20150701_173611My latest joyful discovery is the very simple banana “ice cream”. I think I may be the last person to find this on the internet, but just in case you haven’t tried it yet and want to: Just slice and freeze bananas for a couple hours, put them through a blender (add peanut butter or cocoa if you desire, or both for a chocolate-peanut butter-banana flavor). Once you have a smooth texture, put into small bowls and freeze for several more hours or overnight. The high pectin content in bananas cause them to freeze into a creamy, rich dessert.20150701_174741

The joy of this discovery has eased the craving of the more traditional desserts that I miss.

So my point is, when faced with something we want to desire to do, but really don’t feel like doing, asking “What would add joy?” is sometimes hugely helpful. A dose of joy just might be the difference between the change we are looking for, or staying stuck.

But still, sometimes tasks are just going to be tedious, for children and adults alike, and we just have to do them anyway.   I doubt many people have found  joy in emptying the trash or taking the SATs.  The joy is simply in getting it done. But when we have the option of adding joy, why not?

Go Joy.

The NFL never promised us a rose garden

Don’t hate me because I hate football. I never gave it a chance, really. In junior high, I sold hotdogs and soda in the concession stand while my father coached his football team. I never once felt compelled to watch the game. At home, I strolled past the droning of the Sunday game on television that my parents watched faithfully, sprawled out in the living room. I could only escape the sound if I went to my room where I preferred to write poetry and daydream. And when I dated a football player, I never once thought to ask ‘how was your game?’

No one really attempted to engage my interest and who knows if it would have made a difference.  My indifference was solid, and drawing me in probably would’ve have required a personality change or some other unlikely feat.

I played field hockey because my parents told me to and I was a decent player, kind of fast, and I liked to win as much as the next girl. The enjoyment of competition and sports is not lost to me and so I gave my daughters a fair shake at all sports available to them.

Collectively, they tried basketball, soccer and softball. Individually, they happily left all those sports behind well before they even reached puberty. My middle daughter set the record for shortest time spent in a sport. During her first soccer game in kindergarten, she was taken aback by the excitability of the players and coaches over the ball. It made her feel anxious and annoyed. She was just six years old. Maybe I introduced her to the sport too soon, but the order of the day was the earlier they start the better.  Who knows?

My youngest daughter got a stomach ache every Saturday before basketball practice. Finally, I called her coach and said she was quitting. She was elated, relieved. I had tried encouraging and cajoling each of them to stay with the sport long enough to give it a fair try. But when they were done, they were done. I think sticking things out that make you utterly miserable is pointless. If being a quitter means orchestrating a life you want to participate in, and leaving something behind that is not suited to you, then by all means, be a quitter.

The arts were something my kids all enjoyed. Literature, music and dance. Painting and crafts. The arts can help us turn down the volume of an over wired, fast paced life. They help us remember how to pay attention for more than a few seconds, to wonder and to  just be. They remind us of the interconnection of things, of each other. They touch our spirits. In an environment of scarcity, the arts can make us rich with shared humanity.

Often for too-little pay, an artist manages to intuitively take a universal idea, or one of life’s mysteries, and churn out beauty, and creative meaning, for us to contemplate and enjoy. This is something society needs more than ever, yet it is something we collectively do not seem to value.

We are entertainment junkies, an easily distracted, attention deficit society. And we LOVE the distraction of the NFL . It is easy and fun to rant about the injustices of allowing a felon to get paid millions of dollars to play a game for our entertainment while we keep supporting it. It feels much more righteous to go on about the unfairness of letting someone we deem unworthy and abusive to appear on our large screen televisions than it does to acknowledge any poor treatment in our own lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our schools.  While being entertained (and simultaneously supporting the entire NFL industry with our hyper interest), we don’t have to change a damn thing.

While obsessing over ‘the stars’, we don’t have time to be the stars of our own play before the curtain is drawn, the whistle is blown. What do we want to do with our lives, our time? What do we want to give, to create, and to be? It is hard to do all that while obsessing over the larger than life NFL. I am doing it too. I am writing about it right now. On a blog about simplicity, I’m writing about goddamn football. It bleeds into my day and I kind of resent that. I’m still that girl who doesn’t want to turn my head toward the football field because it bores me to death. But now I have and I don’t like that.

Maybe it’s because I have a an adult child in the arts who pores her heart and soul into a project, a dance or a painting, and then barely profits enough to purchase the next set of paints. Yet she would no more stop doing it than stop breathing. Maybe it’s because my husband is not a football fan either and so I’ve been able to remain mostly unsympathetic to the obsession. Maybe this and more is why I’ve not given a rat’s ass about the goings on of the NFL. At least until now.   But now it has grabbed my attention and spills out onto the page. Now I too breathe life into it.

Yes, there is abuse and terrible injury and huge injustices and sleazy, profit driven decisions within the NFL. Just like there are actors who can have horrendous personal lives and still make their livelihoods on the big screen because they entertain us. There will probably always be footballs players who are dangerous, unhealthy, brain damaged and in desperate need of rehabilitation. And we keep feeding the drama because it gives us yet another thing to focus on. It turns our heads and steals our attention.

13165306503_8752c90da5_sWhat do we expect? The NFL never promised us a rose garden. But it promised us entertainment, and it delivers. We’ve got to admit, this is partly a reflection of our values as a society. We can rant and argue, protest and debate over the deflated balls versus the other wrong doings of the players, but it’s everything we have asked for, everything we have supported, paid for and focused on. We are not victims here.

I am sick to death of the NFL talk. It consists of a sport where grown men are headbutting each other into oblivion. Brain damage. Obscene amounts of money. Entitlement. But it’s also fun for the fans, I know. It’s American. It’s entertaining and can be uniting. It’s friendly competition and games and chicken wings and parties and family and friends. But I really don’t care who plays and who doesn’t and what’s being done to the balls. Just like I don’t care what Miley Cyrus is wearing. Have you seen what you own daughter is wearing? Now there’s something to focus on.

The ills of the NFL simply shine a spotlight on some of the ills of society. And now we’re trying to blow the whistle. We want to have a say in who must take their ball and go home and who gets to stay. But it doesn’t work that way. The game isn’t about morality. It’s about profit and entertainment. We’re the spectators and the NFL is serving up what we ordered. What we pay for. What we value. We’re players in this NFL game. And when we’ve had enough? Well, I support the quitters.