Posted in Essay, General Interest

Joy in January

The temperature on my car dashboard said -10 degrees this morning.  A “polar vortex” has moved into Milwaukee, and my partner Steve is a US Postal Service mail carrier.  He will be working outside today despite warnings (no doubt escalated by our sensationalizing media) about frostbite and hypothermia.  However, he is excited about the opportunity to live in the moment, make decisions one after another, and flow with the realities of the environment.   His attitude reminds me that we can choose to feel victimized and we can choose to feel joyful.  The following is a post on Joy that I first published 2 years ago.

Joy to the World

Gift of the Universe #22:  JOY!

I truly believe that joy is available to everyone.  No one is denied the opportunity to be joyful.  Many people on this planet will never have a full stomach or adequate shelter or enough material wealth to climb out of poverty, but believe it or not, some of those very people know joy.

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.”  – Richard Wagner

“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”  – Joseph Campbell

My late husband was ill for many years.  He went under the knife for open heart surgery when he was just 31.  He suffered a host of medical problems stemming from diabetes, always believing that he would get the disease under control.  When he realized that was not going to happen, he said, “Okay, I’m sick.  I can be sick and miserable, or I can be sick and happy.  I choose happy.  Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”  I really admire him for coming up with that maxim, and for embodying it.  The night before he died, he called me at work and asked if I’d like to go out to dinner.  Our daughters were out for the evening, and he took the opportunity to enjoy a ‘date’ with me.  We went to a local sports bar & grill and enjoyed veggie appetizers and sandwiches.  Our youngest called from rehearsal to say she was not feeling well and was coming home early, so we went home to be with her.   Jim was tired, so he took his medications, hooked up to his dialysis machine and CPAP and watched some TV.  When I came up to bed, he turned off the TV and the light.  We fell asleep holding hands.  He never woke up.  And he never complained.  Some people claim that “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.  I don’t buy that.  Jim didn’t have health, but he had joy and love and he knew it.

Many people would foreswear food, health, housing, and money in order to find joy in an ascetic lifestyle.  Mendicants, yogis, monks, and priests of different faiths have adopted austere practices in order to experience the bliss of enlightenment.

“Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”  – Julian of Norwich

This is a deep and serious topic, and much too heavy for me to write about today.  My brain is circling closer to Dr. Seuss and The Grinch who puzzles how the Whos could be singing without “ribbons and tags, packages, boxes and bags”.  Perhaps joy means a little bit more than the glee we feel when we get a shiny, new present.  Happiness is fleeting.  Joy is deeply felt.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  – George Bernard Shaw

I’ve got to say that the way I have most felt this joy of being used for a mighty purpose and force of Nature is through mothering.  I know what it is to be thoroughly worn out and joyful.  I know what it is to feel like nobody is devoting himself to my happiness and not to complain because I am finding so much joy in devoting myself to someone else’s well-being.  Not that I didn’t complain occasionally (hey! I’m human!).  I always felt that mothering mattered.  That I was truly making a difference, a big one, to at least four people in the world.  I smiled at my babies even when I was not feeling joyful, and joy emerged.   Never underestimate the effect of a smile.  Check out this Still Face Experiment by Dr. Tronick on youtube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

My joyful (and crazy!) kids

Are you smiling every day?  I’m sure I am.  I even busted a belly laugh today as Steve was describing a Giotto fresco…of Mary and Joseph… kissing at the gates of Bethlehem…with Snoopy in the background.  He speaks like a nerd who knows everything, and then I realize he’s joking with me.  I fall for it all the time and then get to laugh at him and at myself.  Steve’s identity motto, which he came up with at a psychology school retreat, is “I am the joy in change and movement”.  I am really benefiting from his perspective because I am often afraid of change and movement.  I so don’t need to be.  There is freedom in allowing joy into your life.

Let Heaven and Nature sing…and see if you don’t find yourself singing along.  Rejoice, my friends.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2011, 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Author:

I began this blog when I entered my 50th year of life. I have always enjoyed writing and taking photographs. My sister did a profound personal photo project the year she was turning 50, so once again, I followed in her footsteps, taking her idea and doing it my way. My life has changed dramatically in recent years, and I have changed with it. My husband died, my kids moved out, I sold our home and moved in with a tall, dark Scorpio. I suppose I have a lot to process, and I'm sure there will be more.

12 thoughts on “Joy in January

  1. Russel, thanks for following me here. I did reply to your comment when I first saw it, but I couldn’t get the computer to save my reply for some reason. What I wanted to say was that I imagine that even “negative” people have the capacity for joy. What a great discovery when they awaken to it! We all cover it to some extent. The trick is being watchful and not doing that out of habit.

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  2. A lovely piece, Priscilla. You are right on all counts and I value the story shared about your husband and his philosophy.

    Joy is something more profound than happiness. It is a state of being and conscious mothering is meaningful and fulfilling.

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  3. Once I made a conscious decision to eject negative people from my life (which meant my billions of Mormon and Catholic relatives), I found joy. It was probably always there but the negative people were covering it with negative thoughts, emotions, and actions.

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  4. Thanks, Niamh, and it is so perfectly timed in its posting! 29 years ago today I became a mother for the first time, split open to a joy that I’d only imagined. Joy is visceral and experiential, happiness is a dream, at least IMHO. 😉

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  5. Priscilla, thank you for this post. It moved me greatly. I have a great capacity for joy. But I have allowed the joy itself to diminish this past month. My husband has been in terrible pain now for ten months. No one and nothing is helping at all. He works but may have to stop. I am realizing that at 67 I will have to reinvent myself and I am really quite frightened. I admire your courage and strength! And I LOVE this post!

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    1. Joy is like a great strength you didn’t know you had, Liz. It tends to surface when you need it most. It often comes with a companion, Peace. Fear is, of course, the one that tends to dominate the conversation, but they can all sit down at the dinner table together. Listen to them all. They are all you, my friend. *hugs*

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