There is a woodchuck in my life. He lives close enough so I see him when he emerges from his den to sprawl on his rock in the sun. He’s far enough away, and much too wary of me, to become a pest.
I’ve been observing him off and on for a couple of decades now. I call him Willie.
Yes, I know it’s not the same woodchuck that I first saw twenty years ago. Some years, Willie has the grey muzzle of maturity. Others, he’s a sleek, fresh-faced youngster – that’s Junior. Occasionally, there are offspring, indicating that it wasn’t Willie at all, but Wilhelmina. Sadly, some years, there’s no woodchuck at all.
I get a ridiculous amount of joy from seeing Willie emerge in the spring. I also recognize and am grateful that I can find genuine joy in such small things.
Some people may perceive that the ability to find joy in the trivial is an indicator of unsophisticated tastes. That might be a reasonable perception. I choose not to let it bother me.
In choice theory, Dr. Glasser likens the human satisfaction mechanism to an internal scale, one that looks like the scales of justice. The scale compares your “what you want world” to your “what you perceive that you have world.”
If those two worlds are more or less balanced, then you’re reasonably satisfied and happy.
Glasser refers to the “what you want world” as your personal Quality World. It’s unique to you, filled with pictures of people, things, and values that you associate with positive feelings. Clearly, Willie the woodchuck has a place in mine.
To find joy in what you have is a wonderful gift. However, if you spend much time watching news or listening to some who position themselves as leaders, you may detect an attempt to influence you—to convince you that it is more virtuous to be dissatisfied than satisfied.
We could complete this sentence in a million ways: “We cannot be happy, satisfied or joyful because…” There will always be reasons to be unhappy; valid reasons that affect your life, the lives of people close to you, and the lives of strangers.
Despite all that, there are also reasons and opportunities to find joy.
Without question, it is easier for some people to find joy than others. For some, good things seem to fall into their lives; for others, every single step is a struggle. Through chance or through choice, some have easier lives than others. It’s true that life isn’t fair.
Is there joy to be found, even in difficult situations? Recently, I saw a video of 50 moms using sign language to sing to their children. Each child has Down syndrome. The video is filled with joy.
Is it, in fact, virtuous to be disgruntled and dissatisfied until the world becomes the way we want it to be (i.e. never)? Or, is it more virtuous to choose to find the joy that we can in the world and the circumstances that we have?
If I want to find joy, I have options. I can identify what brings me joy, seek it out and bring it into my life. For example, if I were not so fortunate to have Willie, I could seek joy in other ways. No woodchuck? I could go to the shelter, help out, and pet puppies.
Another option is to deliberately find joy in what I have. If I find joy in nature, then even in an urban area, I can choose to see the beauty of the seagulls (or the pigeons) and the emerging greenery of spring.
Does this sound too Pollyannaish for you? Or do you, too, look for the joy in whatever you have?