It has been said, "Men are that they might have joy." The object of our existence is to create a life of joy for ourselves and everyone we meet. It sounds all nice and tidy, like, "Hey Fred, let's go get us some joy." As if we could pick it up on aisle 7 at the Piggly-Wiggly and pay for it with a coupon.
Unfortunately, finding joy isn't that easy. However, figuring out the process of what brings you joy is actually more fun than grocery shopping. I work with people all the time who want more joy in their lives. Some of these people are friends, some are family, some are strangers. Joy is a topic that comes up over and over in our conversations. Living a joyful life is the object of all of our desires. Who wouldn't want more joy?
I was taught about joy by my friend, Jackie Gibson. She is the most courageous and wise woman that I've ever known. During a period of extreme personal anguish she taught me about joy. Her story is not mine to tell, but her example of kindness, love unfeigned, and living without regret is the model that I try to base my life on. The most important lesson she taught me was that I had everything I needed for complete joy and total peace right now--even in the midst of turmoil.
I lost my father last year. It was, and is, hard losing someone, anyone, close to you. There were moments before he passed when I would think, "Can this please be over now?" Not that I wanted him gone, but rather, for his suffering, and to a lesser extent our family's suffering, to be eased.
I live about four hours from my dad's home. With traveling back and forth, delegating work assignments and managing life, I was overwhelmed. People would ask me questions and I would forget what they had asked before I could respond. I couldn't sleep. I seemed to spend my days pacing around the house (I work from home) and would begin projects only to walk away a short time later. My mind and attention were always over the mountains.
As he became weaker, I became more distracted. Paying attention to enduring my schedule and personal demands overshadowed my ability to find the joy in my days. I was kindly reminded by a friend to, "just breathe" (at least once a day,) and to try and find the joy my journey.
Shortly after he went into hospice care, I was able to be with him for ten days. It was a gift to be able to say goodbye, to laugh, to cry, to just enjoy time together. For me, it was some of the most precious time I have ever spent with my dad. During this time I was able to be still and just breathe. This is when the labor in the birth at the end of this life, called death, became joy.
One afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with my dad. The afternoon sun was streaming through the windows. The house was quiet. Dad was dosing, and I closed my eyes for a moment...grateful for time. I vividly remember breathing in deeply, and at the same time feeling a sense of peace come over me.
The circumstances hadn't changed, but rather my ability to deal with what was happening had changed.
Of course, the moment didn't last, there were other difficulties awaiting just around the corner, but then again, isn't that the way it is with life? We can choose to focus on how hard everything is all the time--and it is hard, or we can choose instead, to recognize the gifts around us, and find the joy. After all, "When you dance, your purpose isn't to get to a certain place along the floor. It is to enjoy each step along the way."
What brings you joy?