The question wasn’t a hard one and most people in the class scribbled quickly on their sheets of paper. We were asked to write down the most joyful event we’d ever witnessed or participated in. I instinctively knew we were expected to share moments that related to relationships. While events surrounding children or loved ones came easily came to mind for others, for me it was a struggle.
Trying to nail ‘joy’ to a particular event stumped me. I had to search memory for those moments that rose far above happiness or pleasure (even defining joy is not easy)but what came to my mind was this:
Callie-dog running for the sheer exhilaration of the moment after being cooped up in the house all day. Like something possessed, she bounds with unabashed abandon, ears flapping and tail spinning like a whirligig, her open mouth stretched wide in glee, her whole body alive and thumping. Each time I see her like this, I feel the release of her joy wash over me like it is my own.
A luna moth resting on a bough. I’d never laid eyes on one before and I found myself mesmerized by its fragile perfection. Its softly fuzzed body, long delicate tendrils like streamers and luminescent colouring made my heart pound. I watched, trying pull every nuance of it into memory, until it tired of my presence and flew away. I thought to pursue it, but instead stood there, feeling suddenly empty. I now know that another deeper part of me realized joy could not be chased, sought or created. It is an unexpected gift to be accepted. Then I ran home and sketched it quickly, so not to lose the memory.
The morning sun rising over Bryce Canyon, Utah. The beauty of that moment, as the sun flowed onto the sandstone pillars in a soft glowing glaze of colour, took my breath away. In the empty space, feelings of quiet awe flooded in with the realization that the creator of such artistry must indeed be a God of joy. Because the beauty of this place was only to be revealed in the taking and wearing away.
Standing at the edge of a cliff in Portugal, gazing over the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Salt wind in my mouth, churning waves cascading into shore with ferocious strength. Sheer cliffs rolled to my right and to my left, rich in natural untouched beauty. There was joy in the strength and endurance of such a scene, repeated time and time and time again over the millennia. Oceans moving, cliffs eroding, winds coming and going across land and tide.
These are my moments of joy…beauty and abandon, artistry, loss and endurance. I think it’s significant that they are connected more to nature’s temporal gifts than to people.
So many of those who populate our daily lives seem to sap our energy and steal our ability to feel a deep abiding joy. Senseless busyness has stolen the depth in our relationships, robbed us of meaningful connections, and dulled our seeing eyes. Some stumble on, not realizing why they are so sad; others, like me, instinctively wait for joy in other places.
At the end of the class, we were challenged. What if we began to set aside one day a week (or even a month) to consciously seek joy without bounds in our experiences and relationships? I’m not sure that the trick is in the seeking. I wonder if the real trick is giving ourselves the freedom to wait for it.