Joie de vivre is a French phrase often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life, an exultation of spirit. It “can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do… And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauung. Robert’s Dictionnaire says “joie” is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one’s whole being.” (from Wikipedia)
The phrase popped in my head as I was about to head out to the gym (I know, that’s kind of like a humblebrag).
When I go to the gym, I am like a robot. I go through the exact same set of exercises, in the same order, with the goal of seeing how quickly I can finish my workout. If someone is on one of the machines that I want to use, I get slightly annoyed.
It hit me that I usually go to the gym out of a sense of obligation. I know exercise is like a magic pill with so many benefits, but it seems like I don’t get much joy out of it.
I then realized I treat many other parts of my life like this.
- I know for many people, eating is a big part of their life. They enjoy prepping, trying different foods, watching cooking shows, etc. For me, most times, eating is just another job to get done, to get the necessary nutrients in my body. Much like the gym, the quicker I can get the whole process done, the better.
- Blogging-related activities often take up to two to three hours per day between writing, reading, and commenting. Many days I feel like I keep looking at the time on my computer while I am doing these activities to see how long it is taking. Again, where’s the Joie de vivre?
- Our semester starts on Monday, and one of the first things I did was to check how long it is until the first break (we’re off a week later for Martin Luther King Day, and then Spring Break is the week of Feb. 28). I’ve started counting down how many semesters it is until I think I might retire (it’s a slightly moving target). Fortunately, I enjoy my job, but it seems like I’m always looking ahead to when I won’t be doing it…
- When I read a book or watch TV, I sometimes start thinking about what else I could/should be doing.
As I thought about these things, I tried to come up with some reasons for such behavior. For not enjoying the moment.
You would think that perhaps my rush to finish my workouts or my meals might mean that there is something better for me to do with my time, and that I can’t wait to get to it.
Maybe it’s so I could enjoy my leisure time more, like reading and watching TV. But as I noted before, when I do those things, sometimes my mind is elsewhere.
And then it hit me. My Joie de vivre is my family. Simply spending time with my wife and three sons is where I find the most joy in my life.
While I may not get much enjoyment out of my actual meal, eating together is a high point in my day.
And it’s the same with TV. While I may be thinking about what else I could be doing, if I’m watching it with family, I realize there is no better use of my time.
The same goes for walks, playing games, doing video chats, going out to dinner. When such activities are done with my family, I am at my happiest.
So while I may not find Joie de vivre in everything I do, the most significant part of my life brings me a good dose of it.
But now that I am aware of my behavior towards many things I do, I can start to look for the Joie de vivre in them. My sense is that’s a big part of what mindfulness is about.
Who knows. I might even start to enjoy some of the vegan meals I wolf down…
*image from Connected Women
P.S. This post took me 55 minutes to write and edit (yes, despite how it may appear, there was some basic editing that took place) 🙂
P.P.S. I used the phrase Joie de vivre 10 times in this post (12 times if you count the tag and the URL). Were you sick of reading it by the time you finished?