03 Dec Day 17 Oh How Things Change
There is something you may not know about me and my family. For the past 5 years we have been crazy Christmas lights people. Not just people who are a little heavy handed with the outdoor decorating, but like those people on YouTube who’s entire house is covered in lights that flash to music. Those people. We had our own radio station. Ryan would start working on the lights in August. At the height of the light insanity we had 28,000 lights on our house plus a 30 foot tree made of lights in our neighbor’s yard that was linked to our house and flashed with our music. It was epic.
I’m not sure what started the craze. Our girls were very little and maybe it was a family friendly way for Ryan to (a) express his creativity and (b) hide in the garage to get a break from life with a newborn and a two year old. Anyway, it escalated each year until the zenith about two years ago. By then we had both started businesses and had other creative outlets. Truth be told it’s a ton of work and Ryan did it mostly by himself. After a while it just wasn’t fun anymore.
There are two major factors that influence joy. One, is that I have to find my ways of getting it. I need to know what works for me. And two, I need to recognize that as I grow and change the ways I experience joy will change. Meaning that there will come a point when some things that used to bring me joy don’t do it for me anymore. And that is okay. I need to find something new.
People tend to have a hard time with this one. The tricky part is that the shift is often subtle and happens over time so if I am not tuned in I may not notice right away that I am getting less enjoyment out of what I’m doing. A big indicator for me is when something that used to be a “get to” has become a “have to.” I don’t do “have to’s” so that is a red flag for me right away. This happened with Ryan and the lights. His enthusiasm started to fade as he had new things that had taken his interest. By last year they had become a total “have to” and there was very little enjoyment for him.
Once I recognize that I’m not feeling it anymore for whatever it is I’ve been doing. I stop doing it. Right away. Then I go do something else. It doesn’t matter if It’s something I’ve done and enjoyed for years. Or even something that people have come to expect from me. It’s done. And making that decision gives me a rush of joy. I’m free. No guilt or obligation. It’s done. Now I’m filled with enthusiasm and excitement for my new interest and I’m back in joy. For Ryan, this year, he gave himself permission to bag out on the lights. He went with his gut and did very basic decorating. No flashing, no radio station, just quiet beauty. Our reward was more of his time and attention over the holiday weekend which he used to spend doing the lights. His reward was the hours he saved from doing something he didn’t want to do. It was a win win.
So many people miss this part. They ignore the signals of their feelings. They force themselves to keep doing things out of obligation. Obligation is a silent killer of joy. Anything done out of obligation does nothing to benefit either party. Obligation is like the Trojan Horse for resentment. They travel hand in hand. So if your life is one big “have to” you are not going be feeling the joy. Pay attention to those signals and then listen to them and change your behavior. Change is healthy. It keeps things fresh. It keeps us learning and growing. Don’t fear it. You may end up going back to what you abandoned after a break and have a new found passion for it. Just have a little faith that if you give something else a try only good will come from it.
As for us, maybe down the road we will rejoin the You Tube Christmas lights people. If we do, I can tell you we will do it all the way, with passion and joy to spare.