Choosing to be a Life/JOY Coach I started to really think about experiences I have had where I learned about how to find and use JOY, as well as times I have practiced what I learned. One situation that came to mind, details the first time I was taught about using JOY in the workplace. The other mirrored what I learned so closely it was easy to pull the tool from my toolbox and put it to use.
The first time I was taught about JOY was at my very first HR conference. than I care to admit, but we will say just shy of 20 years ago. I got my packet with the break out sessions listed, and I was so excited and went through each one reading the entire description. All the while choosing based on what I thought would impress my boss the most.
Which topic would she really want to see me voluntarily take? I could choose a few areas I was strong in to grow, and a few opportunity areas, to show I knew I had them and they needed attention. I came across a class simply titled Personal Wellness. I don’t remember the entire description, but it was vague at best. I could feel the excitement welling up inside me as I put a big check mark beside the class committing to myself I would take it. Knowing it didn’t fit either criterion I had set for myself.
Later in the morning I began to think, why was there only one offering with such a subject matter? Were the “bosses” taking note of everyone that signed up for this time filler class? Was its purpose to weed out the weak links that felt there was life outside of the job and dared to take a “wellness” class. As I pondered this, it was time for to walk towards the room for the class to start. The doors opened and people poured out as the last class let out. People were laughing, being silly, and had ridiculous-smiling faces drawn on their fingers. I waded by the river of silliness and settled in a seat.
The class is a blur, but I remember her talking about having fluffy floaties or stinky sinkies. Yep, bathroom talk. The other thing I walked away with was a story she shared about she and her sister, and it was powerful enough to still with me just shy of 20 years.
The speaker’s mother was in the hospital and did not have a good prognosis. She and her sister were staying at her mother’s side. They were both very down and sad. Remembering how they loved to hear their mother’s laughter they drew a smiley face on her big toe and one on each of their index fingers. They proceeded to act out a puppet show of sorts as their mother’s big toe smiley face took on her persona. Nurses coming and going seemed to judge the two for having a good laugh while their mother was laid up in a hospital room, but the sisters went on with their show and had tears streaming down their faces. Needed tears of joys to replace the ones of sadness, hopelessness, and exhaustion.
The rest of the class was very light hearted and full of laughter. We all drew smiley faces on our index fingers. The speaker told us, “Now try to be angry, stressed, or in a negative space while your little smiley face looks at you and says, hello.” She went on to say “try it in business meetings that go on forever”. Try not to laugh, and keep JOY from creeping in and taking over your spirit. (It’s pretty hard to do. Take my word for it. I walked away with an understanding that we have the ability to be in our darkest hour and still find JOY to get us through it. And yes, I walked out with a smiley face on both index fingers.
Now let’s fast forward just shy of 20 years. My mother had a similar medical situation that left her in ICU for over a month, gave her a near death experience (well, technically she had a short term death experience), and a long road to recovery after. Our family took turns sleeping and living in ICU rooms ensuring someone was always at her side. My son took off work and stayed with me during my 12 day ICU tour of duty. We took different shifts, day and night, to ensure we didn’t reach a level of exhaustion that put us in the room next door laid up and no good to anyone.
One night my son said to me, “I brought a card game.” I was bored and sent him right away to his car to bring it up. His first disclaimer was that this game was not very appropriate. In fact its called the “not appropriate for work” set. Well of course I said perfect…Let’s play.
On one of my turns I rushed to play a card that states, “You’re so in love you get explosive diarrhea. Believe it or not, that’s a good card. It was about 3am and we were playing by phone light. I was so excited about my turn that I yelled out “Get explosive diarrhea!!!” just as a nurse walked in the door to check vitals. My son burst in to laughter and informed me I can’t just get explosive diarrhea whenever I want. It wasn’t even my turn.
I’m not real sure what that nurse thought about our conversation. I can only imagine we were the talk of the water cooler later that morning, but I was grateful for the shared laughter. I had been beyond exhausted, stressed, on an emotional roller coaster, and just about at the end of what I had to give. Being able to find JOY in an otherwise JOYless situation gave me the strength to move forward. It recharged my energy force, brought light into the darkness, and truly brightened my soul.
We are given tools within ourselves to provide what we need to survive and thrive. Laughter is indeed a very powerful internal medicine that we should all take in exceedingly large doses. Especially in moments it seems inappropriate and elusive. Always join in and create your own JOY parade.
In love, laughter, and JOY we will always find our way.