Finite Buckets of Joy


A friend recently told me that she thinks we’re all given a bucket of joy and that it’s gone forever when it runs out. But I think it’s a self-defeating concept to believe everything is handed to us like that.

The idea of a finite bucket of joy makes it sound like we have no choice in our own happiness. Like we’re just sitting here mindlessly trudging through our lives while an omniscient hand doles out our individual shares of joy, love, sadness, and grief. Without any responsibility for our own joy, it makes it easier to sit back and wallow in misery instead of working and trying to create experiences and relationships in our lives with meaning.

When we wait for the world to serve up our fair share of things, we run the risk of becoming bitter, unhappy people punching the clock on life and waiting to die. And then what? What do we say in our final moments? That life was good until our joy ran out? That we wish we could’ve asked for a second helping? That we can’t believe we had it so bad when others had it so good?

Everyone faces hardships. Everyone goes through heartbreak. And, everyone will cross paths with death during their lives – some more than others. Unfortunately, that’s what life is. But I don’t think these are things we sit back and idly accept with a casual nod to the elusive hand that served up our helping. It’s how we face these things and learn from them, rail against them, and continue pushing forward with open hearts that’s important. We have to take an active role in living; we’ll never find joy if we simply wait for it to come to us.

I don’t think my friend realizes that her joy has run out because she’s unwilling to love again. She says it hurt too much losing her spouse and that she can’t face going through anymore heartbreak. But, when you close yourself off against love, I don’t know if you can truly experience joy. Love is at the center of all of our emotions and why we feel things so deeply, the good and the bad. As Jamie Anderson so eloquently wrote, “Grief is just love with no place to go.”

So, maybe instead of sitting back and thinking your serving of joy has run out, it’s time to look at the love you’re putting out into the world and taking back into your heart. Because even though love comes with heartbreak, grief, and sadness, it can also come with a bottomless bucket of joy if you open yourself up to it.


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By Heidi Van Heel
Heidi Van Heel

Heidi Van Heel

Writer, freelancer, and believer in magic living in Minneapolis. In my free time, I love reading, exploring the great outdoors, and experimenting in the kitchen.

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