The Joyful Table: Smoothing the Edges of Life

"It wasn’t an audible word or a verse, but I suddenly realized that God’s joy is always there for the choosing. It’s me, and my self-preoccupation, that comes between me and joy so often. So when I do choose it, mixed with it in a bittersweet way is sadness, remorse and repentance that I don’t choose it more often. Hence, the tears.

So why do I so often choose worry, choose care, choose perfectionism...? Why do I choose to take myself and life so seriously—instead of choosing joy? Do I think I’ll accomplish more by being all grim and serious about it?

I can’t honestly say, except that it’s a habit. I get up from bed or from a prayer time (on a good day) and I put on my game face and I start tackling the duties and problems of the day. Too often each day feels like that—just a series of duties or problems.

What if...I could develop the habit of choosing joy as my default?"--Jeanne of
At a Hen's Pace

Pain and suffering are truly part of life. I think its even part of divinity, just look at the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. And its surely in our sacred books too....would the Psalms be even remotely the same for instance if they were only pure praise, ignoring the rest of the experience of the heart? They would not. We are not designed for a one sided experience of life as nonstop bliss, it would make us too detached i think, for pain opens and softens the heart, and helps us reach out to one another, and we deeply need that. I think the key is more in how we respond to pain, that we reach out to comfort and support and heal it rather than judge or ignore it.

Still, there can be a danger we can fall into, and ive been noticing it this summer especially, i've been noticing it in both myself and my finace. I've had my recent "rush" from reclaiming my table and all that, and also from some shedding and reorganizing i'm doing, that kind of stuff always seems to help me feel good. But the summer in general has been such a hard one...i love my cute little trailer but its been too hot (it is not in a good spot, and moving it has been delayed another month now, long story) for one, and lots of real health issues amping up for another, and being apart for another. Ditto for my partner in his own way. He loves Alaska, it usually really grounds him when he goes up there. But not this year. This year he took a higher position and its been far too demanding and stressful (he wont be repeating it next year). "I cant find the heartbeat this time" he told me the other night, making me realize finally just how hard its been for him. Usually he finds such a healing in the land up there, in its special way it has to connect one back to "the heartbeat", but this time its like there are walls around it.

The thing is, both pain and joy are part of the heart. I find myself guarding against the detachment from pain we tend to fall into becuase i see it happening/harming so much. But i'm realizing more and more that we can detach ourselves from joy too, and that that harms just as much. And it kind of creeps up on you. You get so enmeshed in the stresses of life that you forget the kinds of things that bring you stop finding the little things that make you happy. I remember when i first moved in here how it started my morning on the right foot when i would look out my window by the bed upon awaking and watch the birds and squirrels for awhile first. I remember how i used to love making popcorn at night. I remember how i used to like taking walks just to walk, not becuase it had to be combined with a bunch of errands. Lots of little things. And when stress amped up these things slipped away without even realizing what i'd lost. Its like i detached from the part of my heart that needs joy, pushed that aside so i could focus on dealing with the stress. And that's still detachment, even detaching from joy.

Joy is just so core. It can be abused, dove into to the extent of blocking off the rest of the heart, and used as a way to ignore the suffering of others. Joy abused is harmful. But joy just entered and not abused is a healing balm, like this precious medicine that smooths the rough edges of life so we can handle it. And when we have gone off track and lost it, i think we need to gently welcome it back in. Give ourselves permission to be happy...its amazing how even just that one little thing makes a difference. As i was waking up this morning i was already feeling the stresses of the day and then i remembered, kind of this soft voice, that its okay to still be happy. It shifts something, kind of enters things like water, this pernission to be happy. And it makes you kind of gently remember things....oh i used to like doing this, or this new something sounds nice. Giving ourselves permission to be happy or comforted kind of softly opens this window and lets Spirit in and we see things we've ignored before.

Joy is like water. Gently entering our life and smoothing the edges. It is not a luxury anymore than beauty and comfort are luxuries. It is as basic as a cup of tea...

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