How a fork helped me make more room for joy

Paula Okray


Hello, gentle readers of the Jensen Community Spirit! I’m so happy to be here. You may or may not know me, so let me introduce myself. I’m Paula O’Kray, a 50-something retired graphic designer originally from Stevens Point, but I can tell you my heart belongs to Amherst. I was the Production Coordinator at the Portage County Gazette for more than 13 years, and for the last six of those years I wrote a popular column titled “Middle of the Road.” I also published a book in 2019 titled Kickstands UP! about a two-week, 4,100-mile motorcycle trip I took across the country with 30 other women to raise money to provide service dogs for disabled vets. In addition to that, I write a blog at, where I have published some of my past columns and many new ones. I am looking forward to sharing my “view askew” of things and hope you find laughter and inspiration in my stories.

So… what’s a lady lovin’ her life? A lady lovin’ her life is someone who’s trying to live their best life, to find beauty in the everyday, to find the light in the darkness. It’s someone who’s not necessarily always successful in the attempt, but with a determination to try, and that’s the important part. It’s not necessarily a woman, or a man for that matter, but a way of looking at things. It’s a way to try and make a good-tasting sugary drink of some kind, when life gives you something else. There’s a quote I love: “A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when memory fails.” And I have been lucky enough to have my readers sing my song to me at times when I’ve forgotten it myself. And that is what I hope to bring here, a song to remind you of things you may have forgotten. And with that, here we go!

How a fork helped me make more room for joy

This pandemic thing really brings out the oddness in life, doesn’t it?

We find ourselves doing things we might never otherwise be caught dead doing, simply because we’re bored of being limited by our everyday activities.

Oh sure, it took a while for us to get to that point, but get there we did. Don’t worry, I won’t ask for a confession. Instead, I’ll offer mine.

I found a lot of comfort in going back to things I enjoyed when I had more time. Reading wasn’t doing it for me, though, which made me sad. I have a lot of books on my “To Read” list. I realized I needed to do something with my hands.

I picked up an unfinished crochet project and found a lot of comfort in that. The softness of the yarn passing through my hands hearkened back to the days when my mother taught me my first stitches, and the zen of doing row after row in my favorite colors was soothing indeed.

I did a bit of basket weaving, which sounds like I was a candidate for the looney bin, and perhaps I was and still am, but the control of weaving the colorful reeds in and out while building something useful lightened the burden of the isolation I was feeling.

As I did these activities, I found myself catching up on all the titles on my Netflix watchlist. Some shows I absolutely loved and fell deeply into, and some shows were just a dumb and funny way to pass the evening. Once in a while there was a reject, and after watching an episode or two, I ditched. If I wasn’t enjoying it, why waste the time on it?

And that’s how I found Marie Kondo.

For those of you who, like myself, hadn’t or haven’t heard yet, Marie Kondo is the queen of tidying up, and she has a series about that on Netflix.

I was pretty skeptical at first. I mean, at my age, what could I possibly have to learn about straightening things up? There can only be so much to know, right?

Well, I’m happy to say that I did learn something.

Marie has a system of steps to free yourself of things you no longer need. There are five categories: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and mementos. You take each category of items, in their proper order, put all of them together in one place, and then one by one, you hold each item and decide if it “sparks joy” or not. If not, you say thank you to the item and put it in the Goodwill box.

Sounds easy, right? Well, not so much. I got hung up on what it means to “spark joy.” I mean, some things we have because we need them—joy doesn’t really have anything to do with it, right?

But one day, as I was in the kitchen preparing a meal, I found myself mindlessly sorting through the forks for the ones I liked. I had to dig around the drawer and push past the “bad” forks to get to the ones I liked to use the most. Then it dawned on me. I was looking for the forks that “sparked joy!”

“Aha,” I thought, “Now I get it.” Why keep pushing past the stuff I don’t want, why put up with it being in the way every time I reach for a fork?

I gleefully pulled all the forks that did not bring joy, thanked them, and put them in the Goodwill box.

I went after my possessions with renewed enthusiasm. And while I didn’t do things exactly like Marie might have, I did manage to sift through and remove things that just didn’t matter, and I truly didn’t use or need, and some things that actually sparked dread. Boy, did it feel good to get rid of those!

But then I thought, why stop at possessions?

I started thinking about things in my life that I just didn’t like to do and wondered why I kept doing them. I started thinking about people in my life that I just didn’t feel happy around, and I wondered why I kept seeing them. I decided to cut the dread out of my life as well, and the more I did, the better I felt.

Now, when I start to feel that dread creep back in, I ask myself, “Do I need to be doing this? Do I need to be here right now?” I find myself streamlining my time into time I really enjoy.

While I realize that we can’t eliminate all the “unjoyful” parts of our days, becoming aware of what makes a day joyful or not and making better decisions is something we can all benefit from. Take the time to “Marie Kondo” your life and start sparking that joy! It’s time well spent.

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