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Finding Joy

Have you ever watched the faces at Wal-Mart? Some are angry; some are annoyed; some are in a hurry and people getting in their way make them cross; some are frustrated, tired, don’t want to be there, arguing with their teenager on their cell phone or harassing an overworked employee.  I rarely see someone warm and friendly, singing softly to themselves, spreading a bit of sunshine as they go. When I do see it, I have a bit more faith in the human race.

I know people who are so full of road rage on the freeway: flipping the finger to someone who they think is tailgating, rolling down their window to scream obscenities at some little old lady who isn’t going fast enough, racing after someone who cut them off as if to run them off the road and other such interesting developments. I used to live in the mountains outside of Denver but worked in a suburb that was an hour and a half from where I lived. Every day there were people who cut in line when the traffic narrowed from two lanes to one. One day I saw a car several cars ahead of me and the driver was waving at every person who cut in line. I thought that was so kind of her and it gave me another bit of faith in the human race. As I got closer I realized she was waving but it was with only one finger. I felt rather naïve and stupid. That’s one of those gestures I have an aversion to.

Signs of anger are all around, way too much of it. Sometimes I decide I’m going to see if I can change the anger energy while I’m out in public and running into people who are terribly out of sorts. I stop to say hello, compliment them on their blouse, their hairdo, their purse or anything I can think of. It has amazing results. Not only do they instantly lose their anger but they smile broadly. Did you know that when you smile you literally take several years off your face? It’s amazing!

There is no excuse for not finding joy. It isn’t lost; you’re lost. I know it is easy for me to say that. I have a lovely home, a devoted husband, four of the world’s most wonderful children, many grandchildren and a host of devoted friends. I’m retired so I can spend a couple hours a day reading, one of my favorite things to do, an hour or so of gardening, another favorite thing and watching a movie every day with my husband while we eat popcorn and a soda. Easy for me to say is right!

But…………my father raped me when I was thirteen. I had five years of horror after that until I ran away from home. I spent the next twenty years going from one abuser to another, had several suicide attempts, two nervous breakdowns with time spent in a Psychiatric Ward, lost my baby sister who I had raised as if she were my own daughter in a car accident, had a beloved daughter raped at gunpoint, two other beloved daughters sexually abused by my second husband, lost a much loved grandson in a motor cycle accident and have a son to whom I am very close and who I love very much in Afghanistan mentoring and training the police as we speak. What reason do I have for ever feeling joyful?

For one thing I went through five years of recovery, got my head on straight and headed into the wind with a positive and joyful attitude. Today I find joy in the smallest of things. I take a daily 30 minute walk with Guinevere, our Golden Retriever, in the State Trust Land behind our house. I watch the clouds as they begin to form for the day imaging God up there with a large brush and a can of white paint. I see all the flowers springing up after the monsoon rains, a rainbow of colors of yellow, white, purple and some I don’t have a name for. I figure God had a hand in that too.  I spend long moments sitting on our front porch watching the numerous pine trees, our gigantic fruitless mulberry tree, a forest of cane that borders our property and marveling at how much everything has grown in the nine years we’ve lived here in this small community 15 minutes south of Sedona, AZ. When we had a downpour the other day I ran out in the middle of it, thrust my face to the sky and felt the rain pelting me and dripping into my open mouth. It was glorious.

When one of my cherished willow trees was not looking good, the tree surgeon said it was going to die as its main branch had pulled out of the ground during a thunderstorm and was now almost parallel to the ground. He recommended I cut it up and throw it away. After the tree doctor left I gave my willow tree a big hug, had a little talk with it saying it was not going to die as I wasn’t going to let it, then took a large board and propped up the parallel trunk. Today that trunk is a large branch that has grown toward the sun. All of the other branches have grown on the other side and balanced my tree so it no longer needs propping up. It has grown two stories since that tree surgeon told me it would die and it is rich with green healthy leaves.

I have a cousin I am close to that called me a few years ago and said he had breast cancer. I asked him what made him think that. He said he had found a lump in his chest and they had done a biopsy and he was waiting for the results. But his mom and dad had both died of cancer and he had one sister who had had breast cancer so he had already figured out what the results were going to be. I told him he did not have cancer, that the biopsy was going to come back negative. He argued with me, determined that he was soon to die. I began my prayers as soon as I hung up A few days later he called to tell me the results were negative. I tell you these two stories not to show that I have magic in my ways but to illustrate what positive energy (and talking to God) can do.

There is much joy in all of our senses. One doesn’t need money to be happy. One doesn’t need youth or beauty to be joyful. Watch your HALT, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If any are present take care of them immediately.  Use your eyes to see nature with all of its bounty, pay attention to trees, gardens, the face of a child, architecture, a sunset or the ocean shore.  Everything you ever need to know can be found in observing nature. Use your ears to listen to classical music, or country music or jazz or whatever music you fancy. Stop at a nursery and smell a lilac bush or a honeysuckle vine. Fry sweet onions and mushrooms in melted butter and Worcestershire sauce. Feel the hug of a friend, of a child, of a loved one.  Walk barefoot in newly cut grass. Climb a tree, develop a hobby, read a good book, see an enjoyable film. The possibilities are endless. Don’t wait until the end of your life to ask; “Why did I never find joy?”

 If all the anger in all the world were obliterated think what that would mean for mankind. No more wars. No more conflicts.

Get started now. Find joy.