JOY was this years Word Of The Year.
I had no idea how it would play out (spoiler alert…I still don’t) and it was a hard decision to actually choose it as my word. I was afraid. I have held a a deep seated fear that joy is done for me, and to willingly choose this word seemed like, I don’t know, tempting fate? I felt like I was almost daring the universe… “Joy! I want Joy! Bring it the hell on or….”
What is that or? Or I will have to finally settle into my joyless life? Or I will kill myself because what is the point. Or I will live with it, hating it, and as I let go of joy I will continue to let go of all emotions until I am a worthless hull of a human.
I know, I know, I’m dramatic.
But seriously, what are my options if there truly is no joy, even when I call it in so diligently, so purposely?
I started the year with a bad fall, nothing broken but a lot of soft tissue damage that took about 2 months to really heal. I was ok for the first 2 weeks maybe, but then despair began to settle in. I was either at the chiropractor or acupuncturist every day and I was in such pain. Everything was hard. I spent part of the time on a crutch, and as the side I fell on began to heal the other side took up the slack. The despair was that I would never get better. At about 7 weeks I started to see improvement, but harm had been done. I gave up on stuff. I was in an online self-care workshop with my MN teacher and I blew it off. I taught my classes (about the only time I left the apartment) but it was hard and I scooted around on the floor to get people props or help them. I began to see the opportunity to teach disappear (in my own mind, mind you. I just figured that was the next step).
I was depressed as hell, hopeless really. Suffice it to say it was not an auspicious start to a year of joy.
That took me through February and into March. I decided to choose something else, if not joy at least some hope. I rejoined the self care group. I started subbing into yoga classes a lot, which was great. I was isolated still; I had really gotten used to being at home. It was comfortable, safe and being alone feels like my lot in life, so I wanted to get used to it.
My BFF had moved away in December. My son had gone AWOL (new job, new girlfriend, I re-iterate: he’s a dick). My volunteer work was becoming more and more untenable. I had missed several of the Sundays I worked with another volunteer gang and was isolated from that group too. My landlord had to remove trees from outside my window that acted as a screen, and so the default setting of my shades is closed. I think I mentioned a birthday, and there was a constant, daily influx of mail and phone calls about the things that go alongside growing older, which depressed the hell out of me.
I could go on…how long do you want me to bitch for? Actually, I’m going to stop because I find it all so boring. The bitching isn’t helpful and changes nothing.
You guys should all go away too….I have no idea why you would subject yourself to this constant moaning!
Unless you think there is redemption here. A surprise twist at the end. Hope in the shadows. A TA-DA moment to negate all the crap.
There’s not. Not really.
JOY: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
Well, wait…pleasure? happiness? I experience those things. Not every minute but who does? If I go on to look at synonyms for joy there are a lot of unrealistic words floating around: jubiliation, glee, exuberance, euphoria. Those words aren’t so helpful. But Happiness and Pleasure? Sure. Contentment and Ease (I added those)? Is gratitude joyful? Yes, I think, yes.
And all of that makes me wonder if I need to re-figure my own personal definition of joy. Or, maybe I don’t get JOY! but I become content with happiness and great pleasure? I think I could do that…I could do both. Yoga teaches me to be present, now. And if I do that I allow the experience of a SORT of joy to filter in. Maybe not the joy I used to know and that I desperately crave. But honestly, that joy is never coming back. It belongs in a different time, to a dead person. A different kind of joy though, one that suits me better at this stage in my life. One filtered through acceptance and peace. One I can have in any moment. One I choose instead of one I expect or think I deserve or miss and hang onto like some damn Holy Grail of emotion that I must search for and find….leaving a trail of defeat and despair in my path.
( And now I’m thinking about the Knights That Say Ni! And laughing.)
I don’t want to settle, but I don’t think that is what acceptance is. I hope that’s not what acceptance is; how depressing that would be! Then I wouldn’t stand a chance.
I’ve upped my self care. I’ve left twitter and the daily and constant focus on the insanity of this administration (something that I truly believe casts a large swath of hopelessness and despair over all we do. I am committed to my meditation and yoga. I had an entire month of subbing a restorative yoga class and loved it…and more opportunities are coming. I have been watching movies and started a book. I had an incredible vacation with my friend at her new home. I am planning a workshop with another yoga teacher for Dia de Los Muertos. I am finishing the grief work I have been doing and beginning work with another teacher to explore other ways to do that same work, differently. I’m writing here more and actually publishing some of it. I’m back reading more of all of your posts and engaging, knowing I find great wisdom here. I am working more with my MN teacher, my dharma teacher, on some of these issues.
There is a kind of joy that I am finding. It’s not loud or exciting. But quieter, and (maybe, hopefully?) deeper and longer lasting. A happiness, a pleasure, a contentment. Maybe I chose the wrong word.
But I think, to my astonishment, I am choosing joy nonetheless.
by Mary OliverMy work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird— equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.