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The World is a Stage

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Finding Joy... sounds like the title of a mystery novel, where a young woman is missing.

Well, that is close, but in this analogy it is joy itself that is missing in way too many lives. But what is joy? Is it happiness? No. Then what is the difference?

Happiness depends on events or circumstances. For example, someone calls you on the phone, who you haven’t heard from in years and you have a wonderful conversation remembering past escapades. You are happy. But it fades away.

Here is another; you find the lost set of car keys in the refrigerator of all places and you are ecstatically happy, dancing around the room. Then you set out to your appointment and the happiness fades. Then there is the project, let us say a really big project or goal you set your mind to, perhaps climbing Mount Everest or rowing across the Atlantic, or for some it could be becoming vice-president of the company or the purchase of the perfect car. You plan and prepare physically, mentally and financially to achieve this goal, which you believe will prove something to yourself, perhaps others as well, but mostly to yourself. With blood sweat and tears you achieve this goal. Are you happy? Oh yes! Does it give you satisfaction? Oh yes! Does the happiness and satisfaction stay with you forever? No. It fades away and the great achievement no longer satisfies the need you had. You have the need to start looking again.

Happiness is very frustrating because it doesn’t last, it is dependent on circumstances and the control we have on our emotions and wants. Not needs, wants. The whole roller-coaster ride of emotional wants which give satisfaction for a brief moment can be exhausting and frustrating.

Did Mr. Spock and the Vulcans have the right idea eliminating all that from their lives? By doing so they eliminated the problems, but they never put joy into their lives.

Mr. Spock would have appreciated joy, for you are in charge of it. The poet Don Blanding said that joy was an inside job. So, you need make the conscious decision to choose the attitude of contentment on the inside of you. You might like to add a bit of merriment in there as well. That all sounds like a lot of difficult work and it is at first, but keep it up and it becomes your second nature.

You may be poor, or chronically ill, situations you feel weighing down so hard on you that it is hard to function. But try looking past yourself, to the family that loves you. There’s a joy. To the fact that even without money or perfect health you can still help others. There’s a joy. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t, and expand it.

Stephen Hawking cannot move or talk, yet his mind alone keeps physicists and cosmologists hopping. Helen Keller who was deaf and blind earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and made a wonderful life. They did not dwell on the 'cannots' but worked to discover what they could.

It took a while for me to get joy in my life. No one told me about it, but I emulated a father who was always very ill, often critically, yet who was the funniest person I’ve even known and most importantly he had joy in the core of his being. The joy of just being alive no matter how difficult his health and because of that, how bad the family’s financial situation was. I believe he found his joy through Mom, who through the strength of her faith, found the joy in caring for Dad for decades. She still has that joy today. (She will be 92 in January.) I always wanted that joy and worked hard to find it.

It is wonderful to have a deep-seated joy with life. I still get upset when some formerly healthy part of my body suddenly rebels, or when a dear one dies, but that, like happiness, goes away and the joy of being alive, busy and focused is still there. Thank goodness or I would be chronically depressed.

It isn’t easy, it is something you choose and build. Let us say that your living room was painted black. You don’t have much money, but you can buy some paint and you choose a colour. You don’t feel well, so you couldn’t paint it all at once even if you could afford it. So you buy your paint - a bright yellow - and the first day you manage to paint a small, little area. What a difference that makes in the whole room. The paint is something good about your life. Perhaps that you are alive and there is a roof over your head or that you have food to eat or a food bank to go to.

Then you get some more paint and expand the yellow. You have family, friends, a pet, you love to read, you love music, you love walking or sitting in the sunshine. You love doing things for people that make them happy, you keep adding things that give you joy and happiness until the whole room, your life your heart, is painted in joy.

Remember, joy does not come from eating the ice cream, shopping, gambling or gossip - you must choose wisely. It takes time and effort, so keep a list of your blessings and when you have lost the happiness and flounder, read the list and add to it. Something catastrophic may happen in your life but when you have joy, you will no longer sink into despair, the joy will keep you afloat. It works. I have it and you can too.

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