Foreboding Joy: all we have is this moment

Do that thing you do


I recently attended a virtual retreat in which the facilitator asked the group, “how do you forebode joy in your life?”

She asked us to take a few minutes to think the question over.

To answer the question, the first step is to identify what joy means to us on an individual level.

The easiest way to do this is to slide into our memory bank and try to recall moments in our lives where we have experienced the feeling of joy.

For me, multiple memories flitted across my mind. I recalled adventures through my travels, meaningful time spent with friends, family, and triumphs that I experienced in my own life.

I wasn’t sure at first which memory I would use for the exercise but then I landed on one that I knew I was going to work with.

I grew up in Sri Lanka and when I was eight or nine years old, the address of the house we lived in was 99 Horton Place, Colombo. To get to our house, we would have to turn off a busy street onto a dirt road and drive a few meters before we came up to our house.

At the time, my mom was a full-time mama. She would pick up and drop off my brother and I to school every day, take us to friends’ houses or different classes in the evenings. Sometimes, when we were heading back from these outings, my brother and I would ask my mom to “do that thing she would do.”

She would look back at us, smile, put both her hands on the steering wheel and vigorously shake the steering wheel from left to right. The whole car would move from side to side and we would be flying around the backseat, laughing our hearts out, in tears, led by our mom who seemed to be having as much fun as we were.

For me, that is one of the best memories I have, and it still resonates with what joy means to me.

Once I was able to connect with a memory that produced a strong emotion of joy, I had to inquire about what it was about that experience that made it joyful.

These are a list of things that came up:

1. I was with people I love.

2. I wasn’t in control.

3. There was trust.

4. We were breaking the rules (judgement by neighbors).

5. I was laughing hysterically.

6. I was completely in the moment


If I were to evaluate other moments in my life where I have felt joy, I am sure many of the themes listed above would be present in those experiences as well.


The next part of the exercise led us to ask ourselves how do we forebode joy?

a. How do you get in the way of your joy?

b. How do you limit your joy?

c. How do you remind yourself not to have too much fun or feel too good because something terrible could be around the corner?

As soon as I asked myself how I forebode joy, I started laughing because the same memory answered that question as well.

One day while we were driving home, we asked my mom to do that thing. My mom obliged and as we were all laughing and having the time of our lives, we saw my dad who had just come home from work and was standing outside the door. He had his briefcase in his hand, with a look of complete astonishment on his face. It was clear what he was thinking, “this woman has completely lost her mind.”

As we exited the car, he said…. “Have you lost your mind? That’s dangerous. You have to be careful. The tires could lose all their air. The axel of the car might break. The neighbors will think you are nuts and call the cops on you.”

As my brother and I watched my mother be reprimanded like a schoolgirl in front of us, we tried to play it cool like we didn’t have any part in it. My mom also pleaded ignorance and acted completely surprised that the tires could lose their air or that the axel could break, but she knew she was guilty, and she knew my father knew it too. She had to force herself to hide a mischievous smile that said, “who cares, we were having fun!”

There was my dad with so many rational, reasonable, and fair questions and concerns.

That is one of my first memories of seeing joy being foreboded. The message was clear; “have fun but make sure you are being safe.” “Don’t get too carried away.” “Make sure you stay within your limits.”

It became easy for me to identify how I forebode joy in my life, and how I have seen others do it as well.

How I forebode joy:

1. I focus on the consequences and what can go wrong.

2. I care about what others might think.

3. Prioritizing safety and caution.

4. Staying in control.

5. Not breaking any rules.

6. Not being in the moment.

7. Worrying that if things are going right, that something is about to go wrong.

How do you forebode joy?

Tyson Fury, a British professional boxer and two-time heavyweight champion of the world, was recently on Mike Tyson’s podcast called Hotboxin and said, “Nothing really is ours anyway in life. We only borrow it until we die and then it all goes. The only thing that we own in this life is moments in time. And this is a moment in time for me that will never be erased and no matter what happens, this is always going to be my time. This will be my moment in time because I lived here, and I was a part of it.”

The antidote to foreboding joy is realizing that this moment is the only thing we have. If we can do that, we can reclaim the moment and make sure we are making the most of it.


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