As we walked to the car she held my hand, skipped, and hummed.
Today she wore hand-me-down clothes from her sisters, some barrettes she found under her bed, and some bright blue shoes.
We didn’t have any planned outings or a fun lunch date.
There were no special stars on her papers, no birthday invitation in her folder, and she didn’t have a special job today.
Nothing out of the ordinary was happening around her. In this moment she just felt good in her skin, she felt good being herself.
And this is the joy we forget about.
We become so focused on the doing and we become so focused on making sure everybody knows about our doing.
We stay stuck in the past or focus all our energy on something in the future.
We become obsessed with the outward – the appearance, clothes, hair, car, house.
It’s one thing to choose what feels good, but when the only intention is to enhance other people’s perception, we are tapping into an area that can’t fulfill and where we really have no control.
The only thing we can control is the inner feeling, the way we like ourselves.
Money can’t buy good feelings, and other people’s feelings about us may flatter, but praise and popularity are insatiable and a short-lasting high.
The only true question is: How do I feel about being me?
Do I know myself? Can I feel what I am? Can I notice what I’ve been given? Do I offer myself the love that I know all people deserve?
At one time we all knew the inner joy. Before people told us to be different, before we compared, or competed, or decided that others had it better.
Maybe it was felt in Kindergarten, or maybe, hopefully, this inner joy is still felt in glimpses and fleeting moments, or even better, a lot of the time.
Because this is the truth about joy:
It doesn’t come from things, stuff, or constant productivity. It just comes from a quiet and deep inner acceptance and appreciation; it comes from a fullness of knowing that who you are is good.
So today I took my daughter’s picture. I will frame it and put it on her dresser, just so she remembers how joy feels.
Or maybe I took the picture for me.
So I can remember where joy really comes from.
Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, CPC, is the author of The Self-Aware Parent, the host of Zen Parenting Radio, a columnist for Chicago Parent Magazine, and a blogger for Chicago Now. She’s a self-awareness teacher and yoga instructor in her community, and she teaches in the Sociology Department at Dominican University. Find Cathy on Facebook (The Self-Aware Parent or Zen Parenting Radio) and on Twitter (@selfawareparent or @zenparenting) and on her website www.cathycadams.com.