Maintaining Joy

Here’s some of the best advice I’ve gotten:

“Joy has a maintenance contract.”

It comes from Father Greg Boyle, who got it from Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön.

And I find this wisdom so helpful and so hopeful.

I can trap myself into thinking joy is exceptional and elusive, the fortuitous outcome of good fortune, good weather and a bit of fairy dust. But what I love about this wisdom is that it suggests joy is here in ordinary time. If we actively maintain it.

And we know we are capable of maintaining things. We brush our teeth. We take our cars to be serviced and our bodies to annual physicals. We’ve already got maintenance muscles in us. And how terrific to think those can be used in service of joy.

So the question is: What stokes the joy?

It could be different from person to person. But I’ve found it helps to have a few answers so if one well runs dry, we don’t go parched. Basketball, playing ukulele, getting out on the water; time with the dog, reading the whole Style section, Scrabble.

Our responsibility is to maintain those things. To take them as seriously as we take everything else we maintain.

And when we can honor that maintenance contract, joy can be so much more available right here in ordinary time.

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