I love thinking about JOY, because, well, for so long it was an experience that was SO foreign to me.
When I was depressed, someone in a workshop had us to write down three 3 most joyous times in our lives.
I couldn’t remember any.
That was a profound moment. Everyone else talked about when their children had been born or their wedding day, etc, etc, but I. Could. Not. Remember. Ever. Feeling. Joy.
Wow. Sure, I had had moments of pleasure – times with friends, work promotions, lusty sex – but each moment in my life that brought everyone else deep JOY was weighted down by something bigger that was unpleasant. Much of that part of my story I am not ready to tell yet. But all of it was related to my life choices coming from my (untrue) sense of not being good enough, not being lovable, being different and flawed in some way – the unrelenting symptoms of my depression.
As I sit here and write about JOY this morning, a feeling of sadness wells up in me for all the lost years and the important (family-type) things in life I have missed out on due to my illness, especially family life with my children.
But that was then. I love and forgive all involved, including me. And they are fine, grew up to be successful, loving individuals. They just aren’t close to me or in my daily life. They both live in the city their dad lives in, and that’s who they celebrate life with. It is what it is. But every experience I have had has shaped me into the person I am today and I would not have a story to tell to help anyone else if I had not lived it and then done some work within myself as I grew in awareness.
I love Rumi’s quote above that describes perfectly for me the process of opening to JOY – all the way from the despair of deep depression. “The JOY inside will eventually open a window to see who is there.” “Hey, it’s ME knocking, and it’s dark in here.”
It was gradual. There were at first just glimpses through the dark fog of something lighter, and a wondering, “Could I ever really reach that light?” I remember going to various churches where I didn’t know anybody, sitting in a balcony or somewhere and just sobbing as my eyes were opening and my despair dissipating through beautiful, soulful music. I saw Light, and Love, and Hope – and I wanted more of that.
In this series I have been discussing a spiritual journey, and indeed, while medical treatments, group therapy and twelve step programs played a big part in my eventual reprieve from despair, it was spiritual insight that eventually brought me to JOY. It involved a shift in identity.
You see, I came to see that I was not some flotsam floating uselessly and helplessly on the waves of life, but that I, Gerry, have a spark of the Divine in me that can be fanned to a roaring fire of Love – not only the love of the people in my life, but of people I will never meet in person – or even online – of all of humanity and the earth we live on, the Universe we live in – everything, everywhere. And that the reason I can entertain a Love like that is that I, Gerry am a unique, one-of-a-kind expression of a Love and JOY and Peace and Beauty and Bounty far greater than my mind can conceive. I AM JOY! And so are you!
At a soul level, as well as at a physical level, I am connected to all of life, and so are you! The JOY of that, after a life feeling like a piece of discarded trash (not from any wrongdoing, but at a level of BEING), I can barely take it in!
I feel JOY to know I have a purpose – to let the gifts of love and JOY and peace and connection, etc,- gifts that the world didn’t give to me and the world can’t take away – flow through my open heart to my fingers on the keyboard or to my mouth in interaction.
I experience JOY every day as I give expression to my soul’s song through the words and images I share. I experience JOY when I give a meditation. I experience JOY just breathing and smiling, breathing and smiling, breathing and smiling…appreciating the natural beauty that surrounds me, allowing my heart to expand, FEELING the Presence of God, “closer than breath, nearer than hands and feet.” No words necessary.
And I just want to say that I could not have come to this JOY had it not been for the years of deep pain, because I would have never been “brought to my knees.” My stubborn, lonely, battered ego was truly ready to die to leave the pain behind – but my eyes were opened instead and I found a path to JOY. I could not be more grateful.
There’s a song in there somewhere…but although I have tried my hand at it, by and large songwriting isn’t my gift.
Namaste, I love you. May YOU find the JOY that is YOU!