Joy is Highly Underrated
You know, back in the day when I was working three jobs just to buy Kraft dinner, I didn't really have time for joy. I didn't really have the capacity or the head space to follow my bliss. (Whenever I use the expression "follow my bliss", I feel I should have long, flowing hair, wear a long, flowing caftan, and spend my days making crafty shit out of pocket lint. I should be Aunt Meg from Twister - wasn't she fabulous?) When you're in survival mode, everything but what is absolutely necessary to survive takes a back seat. That's not to say I didn't enjoy every moment with my children, Search and Destroy. They have always been a source of great love and joy, even during the really rough spots, and I don't expect that will ever change. (Unless Destroy makes homemade chicken pot pie again without cleaning up after himself. Seriously, did you have to use every single pot in the house? And Search, if I have to go hunting for my black eyeliner one more time, you may find your bags on the porch.) The incredible joy a parent feels when your child tells you how much he or she loves you while trying to scam another $10 out of you, well, it just can't be measured. But that's not the kind of joy I'm talking about. Last week, while off on vacation, I spent a couple of hours relaxing in the backyard with a novel and a glass of wine. I can honestly say the last time I did that was probably over 10 years ago. Ten years ago. How is it that something so simple could have been completely eliminated from my life? Interestingly, as I "find myself" again, I am remembering things I actually used to enjoy doing. Just managing a job, a home, and two kids on my own has kept me pretty darn busy, and my default program became one of putting others first, initially out of necessity but then, admittedly, out of habit. It takes head space to make effective changes, and when the rough times began to pass, I was happy to use that head space just to feel and experience relief. And then my brother died on my couch on August 6, 2008. His heart stopped in his sleep; no oxygen to the brain, and that was that. Fast forward two years. I'd always heard that people say it takes two years to get over a significant loss. That always seemed long to me. Well, I can honestly say, that it's been two years since Dale died, and I am finally - finally - starting to feel like myself. The survivor's guilt is mostly gone (I don't imagine it will ever disappear completely). The grief has mostly morphed into memories. I think deep down (subconsciously, because I don't remember this as a cognitive thought), I have given myself permission to experience joy again. Or maybe it's not a permission thing. Maybe my head and heart have healed enough that they can now work in tandem again. Dale's death was the catalyst to the personal journey I've been on the last two years. It's the "something good" I take away from a dreadful experience. As I approach my 50th birthday, I feel as though I've turned a corner. I am happy. I am grateful to be alive (literally, because some people aren't). I sincerely believe we are here on this planet to discover what brings us joy, that we should then bring that into the world to share with others, and that is our purpose and contribution. Sometimes joy is finding absolute pleasure and peace in the simple things (like reading a novel outside on a beautiful summer day). Joy is not frivolous or unnecessary. Deep-down, feel-it-in-your-gut joy is what makes us human. I think it's the best part of us. Sharron Richardson [email protected].

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