Sunday, December 13, 2020

Joy, Please

I put it on the Advent calendar I painted, not because we always have it, or imagine joy can be scheduled, or even reliably counted on. I put Joy down to be mindful of what we hope to recognize and appreciate, so that we make an effort to both count our blessings, as well as share our blessings. I distinguish joy from happiness. I'll take both, but I keep in mind that being happy feels outward, fleeting. Happiness sits on the surface, it comes and goes, and can come from many sources, including happenstance, luck, chance, a cookie, a wink, a good parking spot. Joy, on the otherhand, is what I feel on deeper reflection, when there's no parking, no cookies, no luck, and I have to find some resolve, redouble my efforts, ask for help, accept help. Joy is an achievement. Joy is the happiness that we recognize in the midst of messes, and stresses, because it's built on human connections, love, appreciation, taking notice of the good that can be given, and received. Joy takes practice.
It's timely, that "Joy" should be on our calendar today. It's been a hard week... the first week of the latest lockdown, when the rising death toll from COVID, and news from friends, family, who are facing terrible challenges, hardships, scares, close calls, and loss, keeps us vigilent, mindful, concerned. Stay home. Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask... the mantra plays over and over in my head, and I remind myself that whatever else I can add might help, so I call a friend, or send a text, I share good news, or highlight someone's business, art, efforts, accomplishments, I make contributions, try to fill some needs, or spread cheer. Truthfully, helping like this makes a difference, but it's hard to not do more. I miss our usual connections, the chance to give a real hug, keep special occasions familiar, traditional, personal. I am struggling... not for lack of comforts and security, but reading the news, hearing accounts of all the challenges people are grappling with; I take those stories to heart. And people I know personally, loved ones... well, it's been a tough year, and a particularly stressful week, and I feel it, and I wrestle with the juxtaposition of what can be done, and what cannot be done, pondering on how to connect, how to help, or support, what can be done, safely, from far away. Joy, I see, and I know; this will take practice.
Practice has not always been a strong suit for me. It goes along with habits, discipline, faith, and hope, optimism. It takes trusting that the work will yield results, that investment pays. I think, it must be connected with unconditional love, because when I practice, I am acting in love for my self, for what I want to achieve, hope to accomplish, what I wish for, or imagine could be possible. This has not be an easy, or familiar mindset for me. I credit Geoff, a whole lot, for guiding me toward practice, toward the optimism and unconditional love that can return growth, success, contentment, joy. I imagine that practice is like going forward with a plan, so that even when there are obstacles and setbacks, at least I am still headed in the right direction. Without practice, without hope and a plan, it's easier to go in circles, to lose sight of possibilities, to give up. By practicing joy, by taking stock of what is possible, noticing the leaf, the light in the cloud, having one more to share, hearing the bird's song, fixing a leak... well, it's small things, I know, and it can't make everything happy and easy, but it keeps me going.
Joy can be found, even in small things. It might matter more, in fact, when we notice something subtle in the midst of heartache, privation. I hope no one is thinking that I can gloss over suffering, or dismiss how painful grief, and struggle are... what I am trying to unravel, and share is about joy being that deeper feeling of happiness that comes with sorrow or in spite of it, that appears not in big, loud, obvious prizes and thrills, but in gentle patterns, small gestures, wonder, kindness, giving, seeking, curiousity, a taste, a note, a memory. I feel fortunate to know, to have learned, that joy is worth pursuing, and that I shouldn't expect it to be sensational, or tidy, or even easy... because joy is in the mix, with sadness, with frustration, with the struggle to meet each day, each setback. I don't pretend to be wise or to even practice the things I know... I usually write about the things I want to achieve, or feel, to believe, as a reminder. Like adding Joy to a calendar, one full of reminders of what we hope to enjoy, to do, to appreciate, my posts are just practicing mindfullness, sorting out ideas, marking the days, good and bad, so that I might remember, pay attention, move forward.
Bambi ran the vacuum, and the dishwasher.

Geoff called Holly.

There was just enough hazelnut creamer for my cup of tea.

The dried oranges still smell pretty.

We all watched Gorillaz Live show.

It might not be cloudy, and I'll finally be able to watch for the Geminids.

I might sleep outside, under those stars, and meteors, and watch Saturn and Jupiter.

We have firewood, and it is good smelling.

Oh! I've ridden 1,997 miles! Oh, my God, you guys! I'm so close. Close to... well, to 2,000 miles. All week I've been thinking that soon I will hit 2,000 miles, and that maybe I should do something to mark the occasion, but I didn't realize how close I am! Geoff asked, "Why are you shaking?" as I giddly explained what's about to happen, today! Why am I shaking? Probably because I am goofy, because I couldn't have imagined reaching this milestone, because 18 months ago when he said he was getting us bicycles, my mind clamped shut, and I said, "No. Not me. I can't." And I meant it. This joy was unexpected. I thought it would be another week before I totalled up 2,000 miles, and even then it felt distant and abstract. I will probably cry now. I tear up on most rides, either from happiness, or fear, lately because I miss my family, and I get nostalgic, homesick for those people and places that are far away. I get so muddled, but today I am going to ride my bicycle, and appreciate the huge significance of something small, that was once seemingly improbable.

I have stuff on hand to bake a vegan cake.

wifi is working.

The chickens didn't dig out all of my beautiful beet sprouts.

I have more beet seeds.

We haven't been bored. We haven't run out of ideas. And there are more pinecones to stack.


Cindy said...

Natalie! Great post. Oh how you can capture those feelings.How to reconcile the suffering, the joys, practice. Thank you for putting it into words with such care, you really helped me today.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Thank you, Cindy. Every time I get an idea that I want to figure out and share, I reach a point where I wonder... does this make any sense? Will anyone follow my meandering train of thought? I kind of resolve to accept that it's ok to try, even if I am only *talking to myself.* But whenever someone replies... it's welcome, reassuring, really lovely. You helped me... I feel so glad to hear that someone recognizes that I put care into my words, that I have managed to capture feelings that are familiar to someone else.