Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Search Of Joy

"People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy." (Anton Chekhov)

"What Are Five Things in Life that Give You Joy?"

That question stopped me in my tracks.  Left me fidgeting and stuttering like a shy teenage boy, calling a pretty girl to ask her out on a date for the first time (Been there - done that!  I wasn't as "suave and debonair" as I'd hoped I'd be - imagine that!)

The question had popped up on my computer, as I was searching around for an idea to write about.  Seemingly, a simple and pleasant topic to play around with.  "Easy peasy", as a tour guide once said to us.  But as I began to list people, places, things, I began to wonder:  Do these "give me joy"?  Or do they simply "make me happy"?  Or feel "satisfied, content"?  And the more I pondered this, the more I realized that my curiosity in this wasn't just a pedantic pursuit in precision.

What is it that gives me Joy?  "Great pleasure...intense happiness...", as the dictionary defines it.  Shouldn't there be Joy in all of our lives?  Not just " happiness", "contentment", "satisfaction" - though those are all blessings too.  So I wondered what writers in the past had said about the difference between joy and these other sentiments, and here's some of what I found.

"My heart is as full of sunshine as a hay field in July." (Josh Billings, 1818-1885)
"Enjoy life like a young porpoise." (George Santayana, 1863-1952)
"He is as jubilant as a flag unfurled." (Dorothy Parker, 1893-1967)
"His heart...soared like a geyser." (William Peden, 1913-1999)
"My heart lifted like a wave." (Norman Mailer, 1923-2007)

I loved these literary descriptions of joy!  They reminded me of the things in my Life that I truly love, and that reflect that love back to me.

  • My wife:  In just a look from her twinkling eyes, in just the soft, warm touch of her hand; in listening to her read something to me that interests or excites her; whenever I see her enter a room; whenever she tells me how proud she is of me - I feel that geyser, that wave, that warm hay field of joy.  I am that porpoise (or puppy!), "jumping and leaping" in love!
  • Our little dog Izzy:  She so embodies joy, each and every day!  Everything that happens in her day is always new and exciting:  getting up in the morning to "read the paper" with me, snuggled into my lap; she bounces with sheer delight whenever Deborah and I come home; we go for a walk every night, but she acts like we're going on a grand adventure, her tail wagging excitedly as we meander around the block.
And then it came to me.  Where is Joy in my life?  It's present anytime that I'm willing to give myself completely to something:  my wife, a walk with Izzy, a day spent working hard in our yard, writing this entry, running a little bit further at the gym than what my mind tells me I can do; when I'm moved by beautiful music, or a challenging or inspirational talk at class.

Joy is found when I'm willing to "jump in" - when I agree to hold nothing back.

"Joy is not in things; it is in us." (Richard Wagner, 1813-1883)

Remembering that I can find joy in my life anytime I'm willing to do that - "jump into Life" - is a "Pearl" worth putting into my pocket when I return to work tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John~
    The dolphin photo perfectly expresses the sentiment of your post. "Five Things That Give Me Joy" -- oh boy -- a topic with which a person could go many directions. Do clean carpets count?
    Happy New Year to you, Deb & of course, Izzy~