Home > Love, Music, Reflections > Prescribing Joy

Prescribing Joy

I’ve listened to the Hamilton soundtrack almost non-stop for the last month and a half.

As each workday has neared its end, I’ve noticed the time and found myself excited about my long commute. Instead of thinking a string of expletives about my drive, I’ve thought, “It’s almost Hamilton time!”

The recording translated a cost to a benefit.

It invigorated me.


I met my new doctor early last month.

A couple of weeks after we met, he provided patient instructions incuding the following: “make sure you take time for yourself every day – personal time – to relax/do your favorite activity – even if only for a short period.”

I rejoiced his compassionate instruction, but I was also perplexed: What do I even enjoy anymore?

It had been so long since the question even seemed relevant.

It took me a couple of weeks to realize my heart already recognized the answer my head did not: I enjoy the hell out of Hamilton.

I didn’t bother long with wondering why. In light of my doctor’s prescription, the joy was far more important than its rationale.

For months, I’ve wanted to host another guest post series, but I couldn’t find a topic. That, I found on the freeway about a week ago.

A cherry red offspring of a racecar and convertible whizzed past me on the 405.

I caught the briefest glimpse of a grin on its passenger’s face before she was gone.

I beamed, invigorated by her enjoyment.

I wanted to witness even more.

As I wondered how to introduce all of this, I contemplated joy.

I felt unspeakably grateful to have had it prescribed to me.

I wanted to throw the term “guilty pleasure” out the window and start prescribing joy for others myself.

As the perpetually overwhelmed mother of two young boys, I’ve heard one single piece of advice more than any other:

Just hang on.

This advice is well meant. Its supportive speakers almost certainly mean, “This won’t last forever!”

Unfortunately, when you’ve been dangling from a ledge for what feels like forever, it becomes hard to imagine ever actually climbing up. Letting go feels a little easier by the day, especially when the only apparent alternative is to just keep hanging on. Just in case.

I used to advise others to hang on. Now I’d say this only in the most immediate term: Hang on. I’ll be there in five minutes.

Beyond that, please don’t just hang on.

Reach toward joyful things.

Seek out and savor that which brings you closer to joy.

Prescribe yourself joy, and enjoy its sweet taste on your tongue at least daily.

I didn’t grow new survival muscles just hanging on day by day. Instead, I taxed my quaking endurance muscles a little further by the moment.

Hamilton was the set of tunes I heard through a far distant window that made me strain to rise up … for it, and for me:

What is this glorious feeling, and how do I make more of it?

I now own three musicals on CD. A fourth is on the way, and I’ll be ordering a fifth shortly.


I’ve told my husband I’m going to write a musical, and I will. It won’t happen quickly, but it doesn’t need to.

More and more by the day, I find gratification
neither in the attainment nor its speed,
but in the seeking.

Please stay tuned for info on posting here in my new Prescribing Joy series.

  1. June 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Finding Joy……. so simple yet so often not done. My sister wrote a musical that’s being performed off Broadway right now! (This Life, if you’re curious, about growing up in Manchester, UK) You can do it!

    • June 14, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Congrats to your sister, and thank you for the encouragement! I’m not aiming for it to ever see a stage, but I’ll enjoy the process of learning to create such a thing. First, I need to get back in the swing of songwriting. (It’ll be a joy!)

      • June 14, 2016 at 11:21 pm

        Yeah she’s a songwriter too! I have great respect for you guys cuz that is not me! Best of luck to you! 🙂

  2. Kay
    June 14, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    This is wonderful! 💜

  3. N.
    June 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    That sounds like a lovely idea for a blog series! It’s good to focus on the small pleasures and joys in a life full of stress and negativity..

    • June 14, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      I’ve considered so many options for the next one, but I just had no idea until that car zoomed by.

      I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the joy in small moments, but even that felt like work without … that inner spark. For me, Hamilton kindled a spark that makes it easier to find the joy elsewhere, without any of it feeling like work. 🙂

  4. June 14, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Great music + driving=therapy!

    • June 14, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Yes! I always found musicals ridiculous and impractical. Listening to Hamilton, I realized I’d missed the point. The stories told in these songs were so much richer in storytelling than almost anything I’ve ever heard on the radio. Add in the fact many such songs are woven together, and I get to experience the essence of life–and human connection–all while sitting in traffic. It’s magnificent!

      • June 15, 2016 at 5:29 am

        Whatever music makes you feel like this, that’s the right music. This song explains exactly how I feel about music & driving, even though I’m not a fan of new country, I love this one.

  5. June 14, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Your joy is therapeutic to me. I am very happy to see you enjoying something so much!

  6. June 14, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    “Richer in storytelling”… Be careful if you ever do “Fiddler On The Roof”. I LOVE that musical, but it almost tears my heart out every time.

    • June 14, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      I forgot this when writing “Wait for It,” but this was my first musical! Madeline and I spent a few days with our godmother’s MIL my first year in law school. We both watched Fiddler for the first time … and totally fell in love with it.

      When Ra was over for the Tony’s, I mentioned this just in time for them to play “Sunrise Sunset,” which will pretty much make me cry as long as I have tears to cry. ♡

      • June 14, 2016 at 6:41 pm

        I was music director for productions of Fiddler and Man of La Mancha. It was community theater, but even there, theater provided a uniquely immediate and intense sort of experience. Great music adds a different sort of dimension emotionally.

        I also have this tremendous love of opera; I still have three tickets for three operas on consecutive days at the Metropolitan Opera that I never got to use because I was the hospital with my original bout with seizures.

        My wife got us season tickets for the Atlanta Opera as a 1st Anniversary present. A few years later, I got us season tickets for the ballet — she used to be a professional dancer.

        Joy. What a great subject.

  7. June 14, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Whatever it takes! Joy is in the eye of the beholder. And I think I need to hear the rest of that soundtrack!

    • June 14, 2016 at 6:28 pm


      I giggle through a song (especially any of the king ones) and then get all thoughtful–or even irritated, if Jefferson is featured–for the next. Then I’m giggling again, and then telling myself this is FOR REAL the time that I’m notgoingtocrythroughmostofthelastsixsongs.

      Now I’ve got Manuel’s prior Broadway musical, In the Heights. I didn’t get as much of it the first time through, but I finished my second listen today and … yeah, laughing and crying just like with Hamilton. Good, good stuff. 🙂

  8. June 14, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I rejoiced his compassionate instruction, but I was also perplexed: What do I even enjoy anymore?

    Man, that resonates with me. There are things I enjoy, but I can’t … quite … reach … them. It’s entirely my own fault – I let the urgent push aside the meaningful, and then I console myself with chocolate, and then – surprise surprise – I’m too damn HEAVY to do the things I enjoy (ride my horse, hike with my dog). So the day’s joy drains into endless online games, gluttonous reading, and staring into space – none bad in themselves, but … no joy.

    I look forward to your new series, and hope it will energize me to love myself better!

    • June 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Oh, man, how I relate to what you’ve written. That’s exactly where I’ve found myself, and from where I hope to flee further by the day.

      I hope to post the guest post request Friday or Saturday. I’m so, so excited to see/hear/feel what invigorates others … and to myself be invigorated by their joy!

      • June 15, 2016 at 7:52 pm

        Maybe it’s time for a “Summer of Joy” invitation/challenge – weekly posts from the solstice to the equinox. Thoughts?

  9. June 15, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Well said. Joy: so simple, yet so profound.

    • June 15, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Thank you. I had no idea how important this was … how essential to stop simply hanging on and have a direction to reach.

  10. June 15, 2016 at 7:35 am

    How joyous! I can’t wait for more💜

    • June 15, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      I hope to write the invite in the next day or so! It’ll hopefully be short and sweet. By being too clear the last time (guided by my contracts background), I think I made it way too daunting. This time around, I just want it to be … joyous and open like the first time around, not restricted-seeming for the sake of order like the last.

      (When I told Anthony I was gonna write a musical, his response was, “Cool!” There’s some more joy right there. ♥)

      • June 15, 2016 at 4:22 pm

        Your contracts bit has me laughing…as I would do the same. I pictured a graph, charting and lots of sticky notes! I’m sure you’ll do wonderfully Deb. Just put that pic of you with that book…as it brings a smile to my face each and every time I see it.💜

  11. June 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    So glad you’re finding joy—wherever it comes from. Also, I LOVE Rent! When my husband and I got married, Season of Love was our recessional song! ❤

    • June 15, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Yeah! I’m reallllllly hoping my just younger sister will be keen to watch Rent with me. Just about the only thing better than enjoying that kind of emotion for its own sake is doing so with one’s sister. ♥

  12. June 16, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Great idea. I know what you mean about not knowing what brings you joy anymore. I’ve been doing what needs to be done &/or what other people want to do for a long while, so finding my own joy is a weird, but liberating, idea. This series will be fun, I just know it.

  13. June 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I hope you know that YOU bring me joy.

    Musicals are a long-time favourite of mine; my first was my future high-school’s production of West Side Story, which I saw when I was 8 or 9. We had a great drama teacher in said school, and a very well put-together community theatre group in my hometown. I don’t think I ever saw a musical I didn’t like, and when I was in grades 9-13 I worked stage crew for every production we put on. I took Sebastian to see Into the Woods (the movie); he loved it and was quite amused that I sang along throughout. I was thrilled when he started singing out-takes the week after, whenever the context presented itself. This past year I took him to see West Side Story (the movie) on the big screen. He sang and danced back to the car right along with me, and still uses snippets from that to punctuate his conversations with his peers, none of whom have any idea what he’s on about.

  14. June 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I think first I will need to sit down and listen to the entire soundtrack of Hamilton. Rent has always been my go to soundtrack, for years and years.

    I love the idea of your guest series, I hope I can keep up.

  15. July 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I started refusing to use the term “guilty pleasure” sometime last year. Life is too short and too dear (and already filled with MORE than enough guilt to go around) to think of experiencing pleasure as anything less than a precious gift!

    Now, are some of my pleasures slightly problematic?? You betcha! 🙂 [And yes, certain TV shows about vampires and werewolves — I’ve got my eye on you…] ALL media is problematic in at least some ways, I can stay woke to that and still not feel guilty for enjoying them…

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