“Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.” Katrina Mayer, author of The Mustard Seed Way
I’ve attended church most of my life, so there’s no telling how many times I’ve heard and repeated the acronym for JOY.
After lying in bed with depression, though, I had to decide whether to value my life enough to stay in it or stay on the bottom of what I’d been told about JOY and die.
When I considered the latter, I’d close my eyes and see my children’s faces. I wanted to dance at their weddings and hold my future grandchildren. However, choosing to live meant putting myself ahead of them (and everyone else) for the first time ever. I didn’t know if I could do it. Stories below tell a little about fumbling my way to a new version of JOY.
A friend didn’t agree with my version of JOY when I said “no” after she asked if I’d volunteer on Wednesday evenings at church. My voice shook when I explained that raising kids, working full-time, and teaching Sunday school were all I could handle in a semester. She said, “If everyone felt like you, we wouldn’t have a youth program.” I said, “If everyone felt like me, we shouldn’t have a youth program.”
Wait. Don’t click off just yet. My version isn’t as un-Christian as it sounds.
A friend didn’t like my version of JOY when I wouldn’t continue taking her calls at seven in the morning so she could talk about her husband’s anger. Next, the calls were about her 13-year-old son who didn’t want to be left alone because he was afraid he’d hurt himself. I begged her to get help. My husband begged me to stop listening to her. After a year, I said, “If you don’t get help outside of me, I’m not listening to you talk anymore about your husband or your son.” She said, “If you can’t be the kind of friend I need, there’s no need to be friends.” I cried when I got off the phone, but I stuck with my decision.
Here’s one more story before I share what convinced me that it wasn’t selfish like I thought to bump myself up a rung so I could experience joy.
A friend didn’t agree with my version of JOY when she found out I was estranged from my parents. My friend hadn’t made the connection until my dad’s visitation that my mom was the owner of a local clothing store where she shopped. She confronted me after the funeral, “Your mom has always been good to me. Why don’t you get along with her?” In the middle of answering questions like I was on trial, I realized I didn’t owe her an explanation. I tried to sound poised instead of panicky when I ended our conversation, “A lot happened and I can’t really explain it, so I’m getting off the phone.”
I’m sorry for the times I’ve treated people in these same ways – expecting them to DO what I wanted them to do, BE who I wanted them to be, and ACT like I wanted them to act.
The transformation to JOY (the one where I wasn’t on the bottom) happened when I met Betty. She reminded me over and over, “Do what’s best for you and it will be best for everyone.”
As self-absorbed as that sounded, everything I knew about her, everything she did for others, and the way she treated me was anything but selfish. She listened to me ramble on about my issues. She suggested I get help and she went with me. She saved my life and my marriage and probably my kids’ lives when they did dumb things. Instead of screaming and threatening them, I called her and we’d laugh for an hour. I believed in her and her loving God until she pushed me to find my own and trust Him.
I couldn’t consistently follow Betty’s advice to “Do what’s best for you” because it was uncomfortable to do and others didn’t always like it (imagine that), but when I followed through, it worked. Instead of feeling depleted and hopeless, I felt uplifted and more willing to do for others than I had in years.
As far as “… and it will be best for everyone” – the analogy of putting the oxygen mask (in a plane) on yourself first before trying to help those around you is the best example of what Betty advocated. We can’t help others when we’re dying.
Is it hard to do what’s best for you? Do you even know what that looks like anymore? Do you need a new version of JOY? Let’s explore together ways to do what is best for us so we can do what’s best for everyone.
On the side: In the next post, we’ll talk about why self-care is best for everyone. We’ll also talk about untangling it from selfishness.
Thank you for your fun artwork and creative photography, Christy Young. Most of all, thanks for your friendship. That’s one fine looking mango!
Thanks for permission to use your artwork, Kelly Rae Roberts. This one is truly JOY filled. Click on Kelly Rae’s name above to see more.