I discovered joy in the most unlikely place, in the midst of suffering.
Years ago, joy eluded me. Living in poverty, united with a husband struggling with depression and surrounded by the clamour and demands of nine children, I was stretched to my limits of endurance. Lack of sleep was part of the reason that most of my inner walls of defense crumbled and hidden, inner demons tormented my dreams. I felt my emotional pain physically, as though a dagger had pierced my heart.
It was easy to picture myself as a victim.
It was easy to let go of my innate optimism and sink into moments of self-pity.
Yet, I did not want mere happiness. I knew that there is a world of difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is dependent on circumstances but I knew that it is possible to dwell in joy, even in the most dire of circumstances. To me happiness is a fickle, surface emotion that is fleeting at best, impossible to even touch when I am surrounded by difficulties. Yet it was precisely a life filled with difficulties and yes, I could even say suffering, which stripped away my inner stumbling blocks to joy.
It was a Catholic psychiatrist who taught me how to access the joy that is rooted deep within all of us, the joy that is ready to bubble up, instantaneously, if only we take a moment to connect with it. I learned that I can choose to live in my thoughts and my surface emotions which are dependent on what I am doing or seeing at that precise moment. However, if I take off my dung coloured glasses and look at reality, I can be grateful and somewhat happy and content. This is Cognitive Therapy which basically says that thoughts proceed emotions.
However, if I delve deeper, often my wounded self rises up and once again I can plunge into pain again.
At the snap of my fingers, I can look even deeper,
deeper than my thoughts,
deeper than my emotions,
deeper than my wounds and
touch my inner spirit,
my core self,
the self that is united to the eternal God.
Immediately joy, pure bliss bubbles up and I can laugh, even as tears dry on my face.
My spirit is made up of the very same stuff that God is made up of, so when I open my spirit to him, his joy and life and strength immediately flows into me.
I do not have to be perfect.
I do not earn this joy.
All that is needed is the humility to realize that I cannot survive on my own strength and then ask for his strength and his life giving joy.
Finding joy, living in joy is as easy and as difficult as that.