The pain started last week, stuck around everyday and seemed intent upon making it two in a row. Almost simultaneously, as if some universal starting gun had gone off, life picked back up. The lull between sports seasons was gone in the blink of an eye, my in-laws were days away, and a new school year loomed not too far in the distance.
Underneath it all ran a current of uncertainty threatening to become a river of disappointment. Life was challenging me. I was losing.
By Monday, I had to admit that I’d misplaced my joy. I prayed that some kind-hearted person might pick it up and place it in a lost & found. Had I remembered to write my name and number on the tag?
When Wednesday came around, I was waving my emotional white flag and looking forward to little else but rest. Couch-sitting, channel-surfing and not-doing. I took one look at the Munchkin and knew that he had different plans.
“Can we ride bikes?”
Sigh. The level of hope and anticipatory joy in his voice was both inspiring and depressing. Inspiring because it indicated a belief that Mom would make this dream come true and I certainly didn’t want to disappoint. Depressing because, honestly, I was going to disappoint.
“I’m not sure, love. Let’s see how the evening shakes out. And certainly not before it cools off a bit.”
Crisis averted. Temporarily.
At 7:30, the request came again.
“Mom, can we ride bikes? PLEASE?!”
I’ll be honest. My first answer was no. An “oh, mommy is so ouchy, whoa is me”, most pitiful of parent responses, no. I wasn’t happy saying it and Munchkin wasn’t happy hearing it. Thankfully, neither of us was unhappy for long.
What followed was nothing short of a miracle. On that ride that I didn’t want to take, as I was biking by cornfields on a summer evening, I found my joy.
I also learned two lessons. The first is that sometimes, the best remedy for weariness is not rest. It is selflessness. Forgetting your own weariness for the happiness of another. What results is joy for you both and a reinvigorated spirit that exceeds by far any physical strength that would have come from resting the body.
The second is that joy does not exist in a vacuum. If it did, it would lose its power, like sunshine without rain or light without darkness. So when we got back from our amazing ride, Munchkin let the dog loose, promptly bursting into tears when I yelled “NOOOO!”. The evening bath took twice as long as it should have and resulted in water on every surface imaginable. And trying on four pairs of school uniform pants proved nothing short of torturous for us both.
But those little nuggets of life were nothing compared to what we had experienced together. We explored, we giggled, we raced, we imagined and we loved one another. We were together. We were Mommy and Mars. We made a memory, the beauty and value of which rivals that of the most flawless diamond.
I used to say that Mars saved my life. I was wrong. He is saving my life, every day.
Should my joy ever go missing again, and I’m sure it will, I will not panic. I will simply wait for his smiling face, knowing that it cannot be far behind.