Finding Joy

Shifting gears from focusing on the things I want to do to the things I must do on a Monday causes me to think about joy.  Joy is one of those feelings that took me a long time to distinguish.  I finally decided the main symptom of joy versus run-of-the-mill happiness, amusement, infatuation, or any other emotion that might camouflage itself as joy is that my eyes well up just a little.

My chest also feels like it’s filling with something.  My throat constricts slightly.  The physical symptoms are the same as if I’m about to have a good cry.  But I don’t feel like crying–I’m too busy grinning.

The thing about joy is that it always surprises me.  It’s always the tiny things I so often overlook that suddenly create this overwhelming sense of, well, joy.  There really isn’t a synonym.

When I take Tisen out, his tail wags in time with his foot steps as he prances along like a tiny horse.  The joy of this wag overwhelms me.

When Tisen wiggles his way closer to me just before falling asleep, I smile until I ache.  When Tisen eats his food like he really enjoys it, I nearly do cry.

But it’s not all about Tisen.  The other day, I was walking in the park and saw a small bird perched on top of a light post.  It was back-lit and I couldn’t make it out until I got to the other side of the pole with the sun behind me.  It suddenly burst into the full color of an Eastern Bluebird.  I felt like I’d been let in on a joyful secret.

Sometimes, all it takes is noticing the arrangement of stray branches casting a shadow over a pool of water.  Or a puff of clouds forming a smiley face.  Or a stranger walking by and saying hello with a twinkle in their eyes.

Joy seems to create its own momentum.  After I notice one joyful thing, I suddenly start noticing more.  It’s like getting a glimpse causes me to look for more.  I am reminded of the filter that decides what information to process versus what to ignore.  If you’ve ever bought a new car and suddenly noticed every one on the road, joy is like that.

At the top of the big hang gliding hill yesterday, I stood for just a moment and looked all around.  The grass, the trees, the sky, the mountains.  All there just for the price of noticing.  This is what people mean when they talk about smelling the roses.

Ironically, when I need joy in my life the most, it’s the hardest to find.  I get wrapped up in suffering and suddenly the sunrise isn’t worth noticing, the trees are just trees, and a wagging tail is just a wagging tail.  I wonder what it would be like to be able to see the things that make me smile when I feel the least like smiling?