Seeking Out Pockets of Joy in Uncertain Times

By Colleen LaPlante

For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I unexpectedly found myself playing baseball in the yard with my Mom, brother, and sister last week. 

It began as an endeavor to get my two-year-old some fresh air and turned into a home run derby within minutes. Our foam bat was much too short for an adult, but we attempted to relive the glory days of Little League. My two-year-old watched as we comically stubbed our fingers trying to catch whizzing wiffle balls without mitts. 

My family has always loved baseball. Growing up we would walk or drive to the local ball fields in the evening to play in the summertime. The five of us would take turns pitching, hitting, and heckling. 

And that is what we did last week. The air was sharp as the sunlight faded and the yard light turned on with a dull buzz. The creek that borders my parent’s yard softly splashed the sound of my childhood. 

The stress and tension we’d all been under seemed to slip away. 

It felt so good. Why don’t we do this more often? Why don’t we do this all the time? 

I pitched and my brother hit the ball to the fence and into Mom’s lilac bushes. 

The moment felt surreal. My brother works one state over and travels for his job often. My sister, her husband, and their baby live in a nearby town. I, on the other hand, live about 2500 miles away from my parents. 

Yet here we all were. An unexpected blessing. Sheltering together. A quarantine surprise. 

My spring break plans had been extended (rather abruptly) thanks to COVID-19. The quiet solitude of the country seemed like a much safer place to telework from than our home in the greater New York City area.

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR? 

The world as we know it feels different these days. 

The daily rituals and dependable routines are gone. The days feel uncertain, like we’re teetering on the edge of make believe. Yet even amidst the panic, grief, and fear, there is the quieting of our lives that echos into the quieting of our minds. 

I have been overrun with appointments for my kids, managing my job, supporting my husband and his career, attempting to keep my house organized, and struggling for even a small bit of self care. This slow down is not a welcome break for a lot of people but I am so lucky that it is in many ways for me. 

In a small way it is as if God is saying, “I spoke and you did not listen, so I am doing this my way. I am taking you to the desert. A desert where the only things you will be surrounded by are the things that really matter.” 

And in that moment, it was a poorly executed game of baseball that filled my heart with joy and peace, even with all of the suffering, dread, and uncertainty in the world. 

It was reminiscent of a promise that even in the darkness, there will be light. 

SMALL POCKETS OF JOY SURROUND US 

I challenge you to seek out your small pockets of joy everyday. For me, my whole mood can be lifted by a good podcast, loud music in the car, an exercise session, an afternoon baking, and clearly a game of baseball. Something as simple as a well placed candle, a flickering flame with grapefruit and pine scent, can ground me. 

Nothing will beat a drive around the mountain lake where I grew up. Or praying in the church of my childhood. 

Getting stuck in Idaho with the people I love most is probably the best I could ask for right now. 

I still get anxious. I still panic as this pandemic spreads. But deliberately setting myself up for success by cultivating joy in my days is the best way for me to combat that. 

A FEW SIMPLE WAYS TO CULTIVATE JOY: 

Take a few minutes to think about what it is that makes you smile your truest smile. What are your favorite smells, songs, foods, activites, and places? Who are the people that fill you up, give you peace, see you completely, and love you for you? Who inspires you to chase your crazy dreams? 

How can you incorporate those things and people into your day? Joy doesn’t have to be a surprise. Being intentional with what we surround ourselves with can provide regular inspiration and happiness surges. These can be extremely simple.

  • Leave chocolate around your house if that’s what it takes. (My personal favorite)
  • Get a hand lotion in your favorite scent so that when you wash your hands a hundred times a day you still love how they smell. And they won’t crack like mine are!
  • Set a timer to stop what you’re doing and go pet your dog regularly throughout the day. 
  • Listen to your favorite song in the shower. Also, don’t forget to shower. 
  • Pick several important people a day and reach out to them. 

In addition to the things that inspire you, don’t forget to do the routine things routinely. If you’re like me, once the house or your calendar turns to chaos you can become paralyzed. Or maybe what paralyzes you is merely the disruption of everyday life. 

  • We all know the “eat a balanced diet, exercise, get enough sleep and get some fresh air ‘talking points’”. I gloss over those everytime I read them, and yet I rarely actually do anything about them. Maybe now is a good time to start. 
  • Give yourself some quiet time before bed to pray or meditate. Staying up worrying about the state of the world isn’t going to help. 
  • Have positive self-talk. These are unprecedented times so be gentle with yourself and believe you are doing the best you can. If you feel your thoughts starting to spiral, don’t indulge that fear. Think of something or someone you’re grateful for or something you’re looking forward to when this bout of stress is all over. Think of what you can do to help.
  • Scrub your calendar. Make sure all of this chaos doesn’t have you forgetting anything important and spend some time jotting down things you’ll need to reschedule. 
  • Find a balance in your home. I’m guilty of focusing on “everything else”, getting frustrated with the state of my house, staying up incredibly late to clean, and then having a rough day the next day because I’m so tired. I’m still working on that balance. 

We’re going to get through this. 

Baseball with your family may not be your thing, but whatever puts you at peace and brings you joy is worth pursuing and cultivating once you find it. My hope is that, even through all the bad that results from this pandemic, each of us will have a similar moment of grateful peace. 

What are you doing to combat the darkness and look for the light? 

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