Joy has been on my mind a lot lately. And not only lately, to be honest – a few years ago, I realized in a deeper-than-before way that I needed to consciously and intentionally try to connect with joy as much as possible and in whatever ways work for me… I need this for my own well-being and quality of life. (Which then spills over and impacts everything in my life.)
And sometimes I need this just to simply make it through the day. (Because sometimes simply making it through the day is hard – and doing only that is enough.)
There’s a difference between happiness and joy.
You’ve probably heard that before, but do you really (really and truly) believe it and feel it?
Joy can definitely be there in a happy time.
But joy can come unexpectedly, seemingly out of the blue.
And joy can be there even in the dark and the difficult.
I remember the morning my grandmother died, a sunny August day in 1997, and my husband and I walking in our neighborhood after getting the phone call, and talking about our plans for making the trip to my hometown for the funeral, and how it felt so surreal and so sad – that this woman who was a second mother to me, caring for me and my brother as both my parents worked fulltime as I was growing up, was no longer on this earth… and at the same time, along with deep grief and sadness, there was joy too.
Unexpected. Inexplicable. But… yes, joy.
I remember the evening my father was transported by ambulance to the residential hospice facility for his last night on earth – again in August, but this time in 2013 – and after spending time with my parents in my father’s large and beautiful-but-awful room, we finally left to have a late supper, me and my husband and my brother and my nephew, sitting around the table at a fast-food restaurant while we ate chicken wings, exhausted and feeling unreal while laughing at the lovely absurdity hardness of life, but sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying (and crying can be a good and needed thing, but sometimes the laughter is what carries us)…
And even as my heart was splitting open and breaking apart – as it had been doing for the many months leading up to that night, that weekend of my father’s passing – and even in the moments of stunned surreal silences and the moments of laughing with loved ones…
Joy was there too.
I could feel it, beneath the sad and the raw and the numbness and the unreality-of-it-all: joy, holding a spot in my heart, a beautiful aching and a wonder of how joy can co-exist with pain.
I’ve known times of such intense anxiety I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t go on, times of such depression I couldn’t get up and couldn’t see a future, times of such uncertainty I didn’t know how a path through could appear…
And then a pocket of joy would come, give me grace, help me hold on.
As I said, joy can catch us by surprise.
But along the way, I also started to realize that when we cultivate joy, when we intentionally and consciously try to connect with joy… it can be easier to notice joy and catch the joy when it shows up.
Sometimes this can be in a sort of dramatic way. But often this can be in small, even quiet, ways.
And this is why I so often talk about connection with joy, when I talk about soul nourishment and self care… Because making the decision and the choice to consciously and intentionally try to connect with joy whenever possible and in whatever ways possible – it truly can make a difference.
Will it make life perfect? No.
Will it mean there won’t be some incredibly hard stuff and difficult times? No.
But it can help.
We become more aware of those pockets of joy. We notice when there’s an undercurrent of joy beneath the pain and the hard. We open to embrace the grace that joy brings. We catch the joy, we live in that joy moment – and it can help us hold on and help us get through and help us live more fully alive.
Life can be so hard at times.
But it also has such beautiful, grace-giving joy.
Being aware of the joy that’s there truly can make a difference in life. ♥