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Clapping in Joy

In March 2021 my family said goodbye to one helluva good man.

His name was Clyde, and he was the first potato farmer I ever met.

He was like this awesome combination of the Marlboro Man, Mr. Miyagi, and Jimmy Stewart.
The h
igh school kids who picked potatoes for him referred to him as “Cool Clyde”.
He was a bit of a legend in Northern Ma

Everybody loved Clyde.

I was his favorite daughter-in-law (or so he told me).
I was also his only daughter-in-law, but he still made me feel special.

The image I will always hold in my heart of Clyde is him standing on the porch of his understated ranch in Northern Maine as we drove into the driveway for a visit. No sooner would we get out of the car, than we would hear the sound I loved most:

Clyde’s clapping.

He had this habit of clapping his hands one, two, three times in anticipation of getting a hug from me—or anyone he loved.
It’s like his small, wiry body couldn’t contain the joy it was feeling, so he discharged some of it by clapping in advance.

This is how it looks to anticipate joy.

So let me ask you this… how often do you anticipate the experience of joy? Is it full-bodied or qualified and conditional?

Think about how frequently we do these: 

  • we dress-rehearse disappointment
  • we brace for heartbreak
  • we anticipate worst-case scenarios
But anticipating joy? Not so much.

Why is that? Our relationship to pleasure? Our superstition that if we say things out loud we might “curse” them? Our love affair with struggle and adversity? Our belief that things that feel easy are “too good to be true”?
Sometimes I listen to our language in this society and how it shapes our experiences. We talk a lot about our ability to do hard things and that’s great. But can we also do the easy things? Sure, we can make it happen, endure and plow ahead, but can we also receive with grace as if it’s a birthright?
Must we always “earn it” or “sweat it out” in order for ease, joy, or pleasure to be justified?

When COVID first began nearly two years ago, I remember reading something that groovy travel guy, Rick Steeves, wrote for the New York Times Magazine in response to people being “shuttered” and not able to travel. He shared there were three parts of any trip:
  1. Before the trip (the anticipation of going on it, the planning, the preparation to leave)
  2. During the trip (the actual experience of traveling as we typically think of it)
  3. After the trip (reflecting, telling stories, sharing memories of the experience we had)

I’d never really thought about traveling that way, but once I read that I realized why I loved it so much. It wasn’t just about the place I visited—it was the halo effect it created around my life that was much larger than the trip itself.

It was the slow-melt on the tongue in advance and how the flavor lingered in the mouth long after the experience of tasting joy.

Isn’t that what experiencing joy is—an awesome trip?
As Clyde’s favorite daughter-in-law, I’ve decided that one of the ways I’m going to honor his life is to anticipate joy more in my life.
I’m going to actively prepare for its visit. I’m going to celebrate its arrival in advance of it even getting out of the car. I’m going to regale others with animated stories from my trip with joy.
But you know what I’m really doing?

I’m throwing my door wide open for joy to visit me.
I’m giving it unlimited access to my life.
I’m acknowledging its presence loudly and proudly as a way to honor its existence.
Clap, clap, clap.

It turns out Clyde grew much more than potatoes. He was a joy farmer as well.

Here’s to planting more of those seeds in the ground this year. Here’s to a bumper crop of joy.
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Want to hear an audio version of this story? Here’s some ear candy for you…with a bonus reflection at the end of the response I got after sharing this with email subscribers 2.11.22.

Want to go for a deeper dive into the idea of “clapping in joy”? Here’s my interview with Kelsey Abbott on her Find Your Awesome podcast.