Charlie, the 90 pound almost 3 year old Golden Retriever, was hesitant as he jumped out of the car. Not sure where he was, he smelled every thing as we walked toward the door. When the door opened, Charlie pulled away trying to run from the front door. The door opened and we began to walk into the house. Suddenly, it was obvious he recognized where he was and ran through the house directly to his favorite pet sitter who was in the family room. He was so excited. The leash and harness came off and he ran from one person to another excited to be back to a familiar home.

When we opened the back door and let him out with the 3 other dogs, the excitement was overwhelming. It was like watching a group of friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time; hugs, yelps of joy, kisses and pure joy. They were so happy to be with each other, they only had been together once through the 16 months of the pandemic. Prior to that, they had spent much more time together and had since Charlie was 4 months old. They were bonded and loved to be together.

Charlie had a smile on his face. Although he wasn’t happy when I left, pictures I received showed me the joy he felt as he watched TV and slept on the couch with two of his favorite little kids!

How often do we, as humans, really allow ourselves to feel joy? I used to believe joy only was present in big moments, whether that be weddings, family events, travel. That feeling of exuberance or bliss, as if whatever you are seeing or witnessing is a miracle only showed up every now and again. It wasn’t a daily feeling, how could it be? It is too big a feeling to have just when we have long overdue get togethers, or when we are playing with our friends the way Charlie did.

And the stress of life got in the way of feeling that joy. It was always overrun by the anxiety of tomorrow, or the rehashing of yesterday. It never was just there, allowed to fester and grow. It was always overrun by runaway thoughts and dread. Never lasting quite as long as you hoped and always tempered with what was hanging over the mind.

Reducing that stress so that joy infiltrates daily life started for me as I retired from corporate life. I no longer allowed my life to be dictated by deadlines and people’s opinions of me. I no longer allowed things outside of me to have the hold on me that it did. I began to realize that stress was probably killing me and certainly killing that feeling of joy.

In the last few years, I have really embraced joy as a feeling that I want to feel more often, that I do feel each day. I no longer think of it as a moment in time saved for the big events. It is the little miracles that I witness daily. Small things such as the birds waking up in my yard, a chipmunk running for cover and lights of fireflies in the evening have become joy-filled miracles that I get to witness and revel in daily. Seeing the way the light hits the trees at certain moments, watching Charlie chase after a flying insect thinking he will catch it and staring at the sky as the stars and moon begin to fill the darkness are all moments of joy today.

I have found that joy shows up in small moments, in daily moments. It shows up in conversations, in hugs, in errant texts that make you laugh. It shows up whether sitting alone admiring the view or sitting with friends and catching up. These are all moments of joy, of daily miracles that fill your heart with happiness, love and elation.

Joy, we should all feel these moments each day, being like Charlie, smiling and running from one thing to another excited for whatever may come next.

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