As I get ready for bed tonight, I feel a sense of joy and satisfaction which I didn’t feel when I left work at 5 p.m.
The last six weeks or so have been very stressful. My father’s death has intensified a lot of old hurts that haven’t gone away. It’s been difficult to deal with the flood of emotions since I’m alone and haven’t had someone to help me work things through. And I’ve been preoccupied with other issues that make it difficult to get through my work day.
But when I came home, I was greeted by some cats. Some grumpy. Some happy. All hungry.
Then I took Lucy out for some exploring in the neighborhood. Before I knew it, the painful old emotions were set aside. The stress of the day was forgotten. I just got to enjoy time alone with a beautiful creature who loves and adores me.
There are so many things in my life — and in this world — which pull me toward feeling miserable, but Lucy and the cats and the children I encounter all make me feel joy. They make me feel happy to be alive.
I don’t have the things that I need right now to make me happy and satisfied in the long run, but in spite of that, this world can be an amazing place.
There’s so much beauty and joy and delight. It’s always there, but sometimes it’s hard to notice. It’s really easy to focus on the ugly parts, especially when media have discovered they can make far more money by screaming terrible things at us and emphasizing divisions between us.
There’s an old song by Christian singer/songwriter Bob Bennett that illustrates this well. Here’s how “Madness Dancing” starts:
In the middle of this madness I am dancing
Though I’m not sure why just now
I tried to be sober, tried to be logical
But I could not stop my feet
I know I have not turned off my mind
I know there’s evil all around me
But for now, it’s outside
And I am in my room
And joy is like a crashing tide
I hate to sound like a cliche — especially when it’s so incredibly easy for me to be melancholy these days — but we do have choices. We can choose to focus on the things which make us miserable or we can find the things which give us joy — and take as much joy from those things as we possibly can.
I’m not Pollyanna. I’m not suggesting we can magically wish away unhappiness or bad life situations. I’m just saying we can choose to find joy in small things. At least sometimes. We can put ourselves as close to joy as we can get under our circumstances.
It makes me happy when three-legged, green-eyed Bessie wakes up from her nap and looks at me with the expectation that I’ve come to give her the dinner she wants. I need her to need me.
It makes me happy when I’m in a restaurant and the toddler at the next table is more interested in playing peek-a-boo with me than with eating her dinner. (It helps when her family thinks it’s cute and they’re not annoyed with me distracting her, of course.)
I get joy and happiness from children and dogs and cats and sunsets and the hope of looking into the eyes of love again.
I get joy from taking photos of my animal friends and of nature around me. (Just imagine how much joy I’m going to get from photographing my own children one day — if they want to cooperate.)
There’s so much ugliness in this world. There’s so much squalor and unhappiness. There’s misery everywhere.
But there’s also love. There’s hope. There’s joy.
I’m unhappy being alone tonight. I’m unhappy not having someone I love to share the day with. I’m unhappy that I’m not yet creating the things I want to be creating. I’m unhappy that I spend my days in some ways I’d rather not.
But I watched a stunning sunset Tuesday night. And I spent time outside exploring with my Lucy Wednesday night. Those things don’t change the bad things, but the joy I get from them make everything else worth enduring — and they remind me to hold onto hope that I’ll one day have the things I need.
So I thank my Lucy for bringing me joy this evening in the midst of this world’s madness.