Anytime someone starts talking about “The Joy of X”, be careful. What they’re about to talk about is probably going to involve some work to get to the joy they raving about. Yes, even “The Joy of Sex” takes work. But, I’m thinking in particular about the two phrases people toss around most blithly, it seems to me. I thought about it this week as I tore out a wall made up of some old, poorly installed sheetrock and good old plaster. Plaster that had been installed with some Type-B Cut Nails — so it had been there for probably 100 years or more. I was taking down the sheetrock because I wanted to paint the room, but somewhere in the history of the room, someone had done a poor job on that wall. This is the “Joy of Home Ownership” — and, let me tell you, this joy isn’t a giddy feeling like small girls might feel when a celebrity glances their way. This joy is more like a contented sigh: “I’m glad that’s done. And glad I did it. But, man, what a lot of work.” I can only imagine what my friend Jim Bonewald thought about this kind of joy when the basement of his new home flooded. It certainly wasn’t what he hoped for when he bought the house. Joy like this doesn’t come easily. More than giving me something that I value, this joy changes me and helps me grow. This isn’t the kind of thing I actively desire. I’ve stumbled into it because I just expected to buy a house and, when buying a house I would think “Look at the ‘good bones’ this place has! What a bargin!” and not think long and hard about the work involved. If I had, I probably would’ve bought a smaller, newer house. Because joy is imbued with, and born of frustration. The other “Joy of” that people toss around blithly is that of “Parenting”. Parents, of course, know that this joy isn’t bliss. It isn’t the sort of joy that makes you skip down the street with a silly smile on your face. Joy peeks at you between annoyances, long nights, and screaming babies. After days of colic, a baby will smile at you in a way that takes just a little of the edge off and gives you strength to carry on just one more day. Or a child who is especially obstreperous excels at her math and you feel that maybe there is hope, after all. Or your son, now with children of his own, continues to struggle with a drug addiction and you carry on, helping to care for his children, because you know the hope those children represent and need. And, after all those years, hopefully you can say “I’m glad that’s done. And glad I did it. But, man, what a lot of work.” I’ve only begun to work on my house. The oldest of my children is not even 10-years-old. I’m learning house repair and child rearing “on the job” and struggling with both. Frustrations mount and triumphs seem rare. There is some joy, some satisfaction. But mostly, there is growth. As I go through both of these processes, I see how little I know, how little I can control and begin to see how much change I can hope to effect. People who avoid “The Joy of …” may be onto something. Joy doesn’t mean bliss. It means responsiblity, destruction of fantasy, and removing the illusion of control. And what does it offer? Growth? Are you out of your mind!?!?