For the Fourth Way of Christmas, the Season gave to me a heart filled with joy or that's at least what I intended for today's way.
Yet joy was the furthest thing from my heart and mind when I awoke this morning. Actually what I felt was sadness. I'm accustomed to being real so this sadness was quickly followed by a thought, 'How am I going to pull this off when today's way is joy?'
Then somewhere between feeding the cats and putting out peanuts for the blue jays, I realized my predicament was actually perfect.
My path to a joyful heart has been paved by tears, tears and fears.
Some of my earliest memories are of hiding to cry for a classmate in first grade. I didn't know then that as a sensitive I would carry others' sorrows as well as my own. Disappointment, fear and sadness were my constant companions on the inside though no one knew on the outside.
This morning as I was still waking I wondered, 'How did I arrive at this present place where I feel deep joy most days?'
My father's dying two years before laid the groundwork for this experience. There were days I would sit by his bed and sing. I who never said or did anything this personal in relation to my father sang hymns from church and songs from my women's drum circle. When I ran out of songs, I started all over again. Driving to and from visiting him, I would sing, "Hallelujah, hallelujah." In looking back, singing that one word over and over altered my vibration and charged my joy.
Still I didn't get my father's transition quite right. I missed a big chunk, the chunk related to exposing my heart, the part related to being really vulnerable. I unconsciously allowed fear to keep me from opening my heart to my father and didn't even realize I missed this until months after he died.
Joy also involves wanting, not the wanting of stuff to fill a void or cover pain or the wanting we're scripted to do during the holidays. For someone whose Want-er is challenged this can be hard. A family member and I were recently talking about aging issues. She said, "You can't always get what you want." I thought, 'That's how I inherited a defective wanter.'
Of course, the things I've always wanted were a bit more complex than a new pair of shoes or a ring. I've always wanted world peace. Another of my earliest memories is of wanting everyone to just get along.
I've not been one to want many material things but that changed when I stepped onto property in the country outside Nashville. It wasn't so much that I wanted a second house and yard. I left that to the affluent and greedy. (Yes, that was judgment at the time.) This wanting happened as a result of an experience I had. I knew in my body that I was going to live in this place, that I was suppose to live there, as soon as I stepped into the yard. The knowing continued as crossed the threshold into the home. I could feel the love with which the sellers had built it. I had never experienced anything like this. We didn't want another home yet this place would not leave us alone. It wouldn't go away. After several weeks, we made an offer the very day a stranger passing through wrote a check to the seller for their asking price.
I never dreamed I would grieve loosing a home yet that's exactly what I did. Something that I wanted more than I've wanted just about anything was gone. (For someone with a defective wanter, this is pretty amazing.) I even tried to buy a nearby house three years later just to be near "my home and gardens." This wanting, this longing made my joy deeper when we went to look at the different house and found "our house" for sale again.
In my joy, I called a couple of friends and celebrated the day we closed on this place that called me to the country. This was one of the most joyful days of my life until.... until Jerry reminded me many people were loosing their first homes due to the banking scandal of 2008. I put a cap on my joy that I'm unsure I've fully taken off since.
That cap stopped the flow of my outward joy yet it is through that very house, the gardens around it, the sky above it and the rock beneath it that I have found even deeper joy.
I have experienced an unexpected joy digging in the dirt, discovering volunteer trees, ferns and flowers, watching seeds grow, experimenting as I cook and can and laying to rest a fawn, a fox, owls and so many of Mother Nature's birds. And when I have been worn and sad which has been often, I have found rocks and trees that take my despair and heal me as I take theirs.
I have found joy because I have found my heart on Earth and I have found it through my body.
This doesn't mean it's been easy. Joy is a practice.
Joy and I share this interesting dance. The steps go something like this. Dawn's feeling joy. She's actually been feeling joy for awhile. Dawn gets ridiculed, judged or unexpectedly attacked. "Unexpected" is key. I've this theory that if someone said, "I'm about to unload my anger your way" the blow and my resulting low wouldn't be as bad. I remind myself as someone who's sensitive this might not really help. The good news is my bounce-back time has radically decreased.
As my friend Wendy shared with me recently, "Don't let anyone steal your joy."
Thanks to the land I now tend without and within, joy is a full body experience for me.
A prerequisite for joy is embodiment, to be in one's body and one's heart - the two places many people avoid because of lack of awareness and physical and emotional pain.
Which gets me to the holidays. The bits and pieces above aren't about the holidays yet they are.
The Season of Love is all about the heart. It is simultaneously the season in which despair and loneliness are exacerbated.
Alcoholic Anonymous espouses faking it til you make it. I'm not denying the value in taking action to get out of a rut or to shift energy but I am advocating that before faking it you take the time to honor your heart and your present situation. You are being handed opportunities to open your heart again and again.
So if you're sad this holiday, be sad but let it flow. Cry from your butt. Be sad. Be mad. Be afraid. Feel like you are dying inside but stay in the flow. Let it all move through you. Just as I was handed an opportunity to be with my father and my cat, you are being handed this experience. Feel the joy in having a heart that has thawed and can flow in a world where many act heartless.
To paraphrase the words of my wise friend, "Don't let anything steal your heart."
Heartfelt, hard earned, heart-earned JOY may be the greatest gift given to our world.
To ponder on Joy -
In what do you find joy?
How do you recognize and experience joy?
When was the last time you let yourself cry?
When you're sad, do you flow with it or resist, ignore or deny it?
How do you possibly stop joys flow through your life?
-Dawn, the Good News Muse 18 December 2013