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What on Earth is this strange feeling?

Posted Feb 11 2011 12:00am
A few Fridays ago, my husband worked from home and my daughter had the day off from school. Our family enjoyed waking up without the pressures of rushing around to get out the door, and it set such a nice tone for our day. Everyone was relaxed. Everyone was getting along. Best of all, no one yelled ("no one" by the way, is me).

Later that afternoon, I was driving to a meeting and I noticed this weird feeling in my stomach. It felt like a bubbling in the center of my abdomen, almost like butterflies. After a few minutes of feeling confused and ruling out food poisoning, I asked myself,

"Is this JOY I am feeling?"

By the beard of Zeus, it was! It was joy!! Joy, for crying out loud! Have you felt it lately? I highly recommend it. Sure, I have many moments where I feel good - hugging my kids, listening to a good song, petting my dog, talking with friends - but I had forgotten what true joy felt like. I definitely wasn't taking the time to recognize how my body registered joy, because I initially thought I was sick to my stomach.

I find it easier to recognize the "not so fun" because I don't like it and want to feel better. When something feels good, I'm usually pretty comfortable, so I don't notice it as much. I compare this phenomenon to when your underpants are riding up on you (Bad metaphor, I know. But it gives me the excuse to type the word "underpants," which makes me giggle). You notice the problem and you move quickly to get the underpants back to where they need to be. What about when the underpants are doing their job and fitting well? How often do you notice THAT? (Now y'all are gonna be thinkin' about your underpants...)

November is the perfect month to start focusing on your hidden moments of joy. Being openly thankful for the things we have in our lives that are joyous, fulfilling, enjoyable and happy is an important practice to maintain, because the not-so-good stuff registers so frequently. Routines that don't get followed, homework struggles, problems with teachers, work stress, marriage stress - it takes a toll on a person. I am usually just trying to get through the day most of the time, so I really don't stop and embrace my moments of joy. And based on the fact that I struggled to recognize it that day in the car, it was clear to me that I need to work extra hard at seeing joy in my daily routine.

So here's my challenge: Make it a goal this month recognize the joy in your life. Really feel it in your stomach, your toes, your lungs... so you know what you're looking for when you feel it again. If it's hard to come by, start seeking it out. Hug your kid more than normal (they'll think you're weird, but man, you need to feel the joy!). Thank someone for doing the dishes. Or ask your someone to do the dishes, and when they do it, thank them. Find a puppy and pet it, enjoying the cuteness until you think your heart may burst. Joy is out there, just waiting for you to find it.

Do you find it difficult or easy to recognize the good stuff? I want to hear about the ways you recognize that strange, sometimes foreign, feeling we call joy.

Kara Thompson is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Lenexa, Kansas. Her underpants are fitting quite nicely at the moment. You can find Kara on her website at , on Facebook at or follow her on Twitter at

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