I'm learning to reconnect with Joy.
I've gotten skillful connecting to pain, which can be beautiful if we are conscious not to stay there and let it serve as a teacher; for me, it led me to my deepest wounds --- rejection, abandonment, betrayal and loss --- and ultimately the greatest healing and metamorphosis of my life thus far. Connecting with joy, however, true deep joy that bubbles up from the innards out, has been a greater challenge.
I know that gratitude is the precursor to Joy and that practicing this reflection is the key to opening more experiences where Joy can live; however, it's common to squelch our Joy due to a deep rooted fear that it won't or can't last because we think it resides outside of our bodies.
I suppose the first time Joy took a vacation was when my dad and mom split up. I remember holding in all of my tears at three-and-a-half, being afraid to show emotion as if it made me weak.
I remember getting into a fist fight with joy when my grade 5 boyfriend left me for an older girl. Joy lost. I choked on a victory of self-loathing, feeling vindicated that the lies I was holding onto around men were true --- they reject, they betray and they leave. I remained aloof to men out of a created core belief that this story was true, which only made them want me more. I became the princess in the drama of my life, locked in a tower of my own imagination and waiting for someone to come along and save me from the complexities of this human experience. It never occurred to me then to save myself.
I remember when joy asked for another chance and I said yes, hopeful but lingering in the energy of denial.
One day I turned my back on Joy and I silenced the sanctuary that Joy promised with self-deprecating internal dialogue. I blamed Joy every time something or someone let me down and I kept building stronger and taller walls around my heart.
Eventually I broke up with Joy altogether, but missed the company we kept.
So I searched for Joy in my grades, and teachers. I searched for Joy in bottles of alcohol and men that resurfaced wounds from my fathers. I searched for joy in bars and parties that lasted too long with shades drawn down low, my soul shaken, melancholy my muse.
And then, one day, I realized that Joy had never left; she wasn't living on a beach in Thailand or a retreat in Nepal. Joy didn't live in my bank account or my car, my boyfriends or my family. She didn't live in anything outside of myself.
I had somehow forgotten that Joy lived within and it was my responsibility to do the inner work to feel safe enough for her to flourish.
"You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings." - Elizabeth Gilbert
Joy lives in the still, the soft, the subtle, even silent, corridors of my heart. In order to find her, I had to crack my heart back open to feel she was there --- always present and waiting for me to acknowledge her.
When our hearts open to Joy, we feel her presence everywhere.
She lingers in the wind and the way it moves through trees; She dances with fate when our lives are in flow; She sings with our sadness a lullaby of remembrance of the Divinity within; Joy holds hands with our fear and sits with our pain. Joy is there, every step of the way, but we must open our hearts to feel all of it to know she never left. We mustn't contract our hearts, slump our shoulders, or cross our arms in the presence of pain, we must learn to expand amidst these moments of tribulation.
Joy never left. Joy will never leave.
If you can't feel Joy or you're afraid to let her surface, be patient with yourself. Remember that joy is not a destination, it's a journey of gradual softening, opening and unveiling and we must feel safe in order to experience the vulnerability it requires to blossom.