As the woman's story unfolded, I learned that she was headed to her first job interview after many years of not working — and wanted everything to be just right. As she found the crumpled ten dollar bill in the bottom of her purse, perhaps a prized possession for her, she handed it to the clerk with pride. She shared why she was returning to work and her hopes that that would hire her. While she seemed to have little to celebrate as measured by our consumerist standards, she was beaming with such joy. After the story ended she turned and thanked me for being patient in waiting for her.
The gratitude was mine as well a few moments later when I got her ten dollar bill as part of the change from my purchase. How poetic... We so often postpone joy, thinking it has to be a certain way. It is like the photo at the top of this post: Sometimes we complain about the hard rock which we believe keeps us from joy. Other times we believe we need to have a field of sprouts before we can have joy.
I saw this as well in running a recent leadership program wherein the client at first thought that joy would only come if we figured out all the details beforehand. Once the actual program actually started, they could see the joy participants felt in being witnessed as they opened up to new aspects of themselves and new possibilities for their work.
What are you waiting for? Are you imagining joy is somewhere else and sometime else? Even in the midst of challenges and difficulties? It is about being fully human not perfect conditions or faddish claims. Where would you like to let go and let joy in? What is your crumpled ten dollar bill in this moment that would open up a new narrative for you?
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Dr David Drake is the founder of the field of Narrative Coaching.