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Clearly, my daughter thinks the way to be more joyful is to sing Christmas carols every chance she gets.

Or perhaps I should say Christmas carol. She only knows one.

The truth is, as much as I love the big picture of my life, my daughter will tell you I sometimes get a little … serious. And for someone who’s already pretty busy doing what she wants to do, the holidays can be a distraction I’m not always as grateful for as I should be.

But you know, that Christmas carol eventually won me over. Joy is contagious. And so I’d like to pass some along to you, just without the singing.

Here’s what I’m doing to bring more joy into my life, now and hopefully year round.

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It’s gutting, isn’t it?

You’ve finally found that thing that makes you feel giddy and alive—maybe it’s a job, or a place, or a person you think you could spend the rest of your life with.

And then, bang. It’s over.

Maybe you were fired. Maybe your positioned is being moved to Newark. Maybe they just weren’t that into you. Whatever the reason, someone else has decided the good times are over and there’s nothing you can do about it.

When you’re in the middle of that pain, you can’t help but wonder: what if that was as good as it gets?

Will I have to settle for something that will always feel less than?

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Growing up, I was pretty emotionally unstable.

By the time I got to high school, I cried myself to sleep nearly every other night. I thought no one liked me. I had no one to talk to but my mentally ill father, who didn’t have a good grasp of how to deal with these feelings himself.

I was a strange mix of academically confident and socially dejected. And it hurt. A lot.

Then I grew up and somehow, amazingly, got that life that I always dreamed about.

The stable family that loves spending time together. Enough money in the bank that we can take fun vacations whenever we can carve out the time. Friends who want to get together for tea or go to concerts.

I know when I wished for all this, when it was the light in my dark teenage life, I promised to never, ever be ungrateful.

But that ache, that gnawing feeling inside … it never quite went away.