When I went to college, I made a decision.
I decided, actively decided, that I would live in joy. That I would find the positive in each situation and that I would discover something to celebrate in everyone, and every situation.
I had some simple practices to implement this decision. One, I remember so clearly, was a promise to myself that I would not to vent or complain without first considering the impact my words would have. What would the impact be on the subject of my rant (that annoying kid in class, the teacher who was boring, the rude drunk guy) but also on the people who had to hear me vent. How would this impact them? How would it change their mood to listen to my negativity?
I was tired of the high school scene with the judging and insecurities and well intentioned exhausted ramblings that were twisted into hurts by equally well intentioned, insecure and hurting people. Frankly, the whole thing had left me depleted. I realized that I had, for the first time since kindergarden, an opportunity to start over.
I have to admit, that at the time, my motivations were not 100 % pure. Like so many young women, I was deep down worried that people wouldn’t like me if I wasn’t “nice”. College, like all things, is messy. And I messed up plenty, especially when tired, or hurt, or after drinking too much beer. But I kept this decision before, like a compass that I used to find my way.
There were many unintended consequences of this decision. For instance, the light on Mt Saint James where I spent those four years was the most beautiful light I had ever seen in my entire young life, especially at sunset. Remembering it now I feel a wave of peace. I think now, that the light in this industrial town was no more special than the light everywhere else. It simply was that I was awake enough to notice its majesty–the subtle magic. With my brain more clear of rants, past and future, as well as regret, anxiety and fear about what mess my words might have wrought, I could see the world shimmer so much more easily.
What I learned through my experiment was that happiness may be a situation but joy is a decision.
A couple of years ago I went to a workshop on healing where the teacher challenged us to presence joy. If you walk into a room, that is dull or dark or full of angst, laugh, smile, giggle, tell a story. Dance. Find something beautiful and point it out. Play. See what happens.
It strikes me as funny how this powerful play in my playbook gets lost in the hubub that is my life. And it strikes me as glorious how easy it is to dust it off.
I am renewing my vows to a practice of joy. Not happiness. Not an absence of grief. But reckless, deep, unfettered, silly, magnificent, playful, unrelenting joy. To dance with abandon and to celebrate the simple pleasure of being able to feel.