Do you ever get anxious when plans change? When the next best action isn’t clear to you? When suddenly the next few hours have opened up and you wonder about the best way to fill them?

I like having a plan. Even though I crave having free time, I like knowing how that free time will be spent. When I don’t know what the next few hours look like, I get anxious.

Anxiety is a funny/not-funny-at-all thing. It can rob you of a joyous Saturday.

But joy, perhaps, is the venom to anxiety – the one word to repeat over and over until you find your way back to the present moment.

Would You Pass Up VIP Tennis Tickets?

Earlier this week, a director at work had two VIP tickets to Scottsdale’s Tennis Week. I had no idea about that event or what it would be like, but I heard “VIP.” Free drinks and culinary experiences? Yes, I’m there. And tennis meant spending the day outside. On a March day in Arizona, that was a no-brainer. With no plans for the weekend, why not take the free VIP treatment and watch some tennis?

Kyle and I had no idea what to expect, but we were psyched. Our assumptions were high.

I put on a VIP-worthy dress and we headed over to Scottsdale around noon.

Tennis week, as it turned out, was not quite as glamorous as we had assumed.

I imagine it got better later in the day, but at the noon hour, hardly anyone was there. We weren’t sure what was going to happen with the “tennis” ordeal, but there weren’t any full-on matches going on while we were there. VIP treatment included a fancy sitting area, one food vendor and one bar. Not that we require the best of the best, but I knew these tickets were a $250 value. Hence our high assumptions.

We quickly realized we wouldn’t be spending the entire day there as we had planned.

The Hedonic Treadmill

Now we had a full day ahead of us with nowhere to be. We were in Scottsdale, and I had a pretty dress on. I think Kyle was more concerned than I was that I got use out of my nice outfit, which I thought it was cute and sweet of him, and sure, I wanted to stumble upon something better, something more worth our time there.

And so we began on the hedonic treadmill.

I came across that term this morning in the book I’m reading, How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan.

“We are caught in what scientists call the hedonic treadmill – the tendency to keep chasing after experiences that offer only a brief spike of happiness so that we have to keep trying over and over again and never really get anywhere.”

-Colin Beavan, How to Be Alive

Yes – this was exactly the term I needed to come across today, the words for the thing that often happens when Kyle and I are in Scottsdale, or any other place we’re not quite sure about.

The problem is, Kyle and I are not big fans of Scottsdale. If our day had opened up and we were in Phoenix, it would have been totally different. Likely anything we did next would have felt right, because we love our city so much.

But any time we are in downtown Scottsdale and it’s just the two of us, it looks like this – we look at Google Maps to see what’s around, any venue we might be missing that’s not within our peripheral vision. We find a place that sounds good, go there, sit down, and immediately realize that we don’t like the vibe there. We leave before the waiter even notices we’re there and head to another place, hoping to find that right feeling.

We never quite do.

But we pick somewhere to sit for a while because we’re not going to place this game all day. We’re still not feeling the vibe but we order a drink or an appetizer and hope for something magical to happen (this is how I see it anyway, not speaking for Kyle). The vibe of the place weighs down on us until we realize it’s time to go.

This was how yesterday went. I really don’t know what went on in Kyle’s head but my mind was racing with anxiety. How were we going to make this day better? What cool experiences were we really missing out on? 

What I needed to see at the moment was that the experience was all right in front of me: a beautiful Arizona day with the man I love and absolutely nowhere to be. 

It doesn’t get much better than this and it may not always be so easy to have days like that. This brings me back to Rob Bell’s talk we went to see last week, which I wrote about here it’s an evil to go through life and not enjoy the gifts you have.

When Life Hands You Sprinkles…

When we started walking back to the car, taking a different route than where we had started out on, Kyle pointed out a cupcake shop. Sprinkles.

Sprinkles!

Not any old cupcake shop, the cupcake shop! Sprinkles was the first cupcake bakery opened in the US. They’re known for their Cupcake ATM – a vending machine right outside the store that dispenses high-quality cupcakes that a girl like me dreams about.

I gazed in awe at the quaint, minimally designed storefront and kept on walking.

“You mean, you don’t want to go in there?” Kyle asked.

“No,” I said, as if it wasn’t even a possibility. We had had ice cream the day before. I had already hit my sugar quota for the weekend.

“You have 10 seconds to change your mind,” Kyle said.

I kept walking with no second thoughts until we passed a woman about my age on a bench, overjoyed to be diving into a coconut-topped cupcake. She didn’t look shameful or guilty, but as if she’d just come across something magical.

Joy!

It had been six years since I first came across a Sprinkles bakery, when Kyle and I were in Chicago together when we had first started dating. Like VIP tennis tickets, this opportunity doesn’t happen every day.

And for a girl with a cupcake tattoo, isn’t it an evil to pass up the opportunity for THE original cupcake???

Yes, yes it was.

I grabbed Kyle’s hand and we turned around right there. When we walked in the pink and brown shop and I saw that they offered gluten-free cupcakes in the red velvet flavor, there it was – joy.

Joy that I had decided to honor something that deeply in my heart I knew I wanted.

Joy that I am married to someone who understands my authentic desire for cupcakes and when I’m about to pass up an opportunity I’ll regret for the rest of my life day.

Joy at the sight of beautiful little cakes topped with fluffy swirls of frosting and a variety of sprinkles, candies and cookie crumbs, making each cupcake a visually dazzling delight.

Kyle and I shared cupcakes on the bench under the sun, basking in the joy. (Again, I at least am speaking for me. I assume his heart was experiencing as much joy. 🙂 )

Seeking Joy From Within

Scottsdale might not be our place. Tennis Week might not be our thing.

Instead of internalizing over whether something will or won’t bring us joy, perhaps the answer is instead to look at what I know brings me joy.

Kyle.

Sunshine.

Sprinkles.

Life may hand you tennis tickets, streets full of bars and restaurants, or the rare diamond known as the Sprinkles bakery. Whether those things live up to your assumptions or not, you already have what you need. You already have the joy as long as you choose to see it.

As long as I remember that when the plans change and the day opens up, everything will be fine.

When Life Hands You Tennis Tickets: A Few Thoughts on Anxiety

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