I whined to Carrie, “Who picked the theme of ‘joy’ for this month?” Yes, it was none other than myself. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time I chose it. And I should know better because “joy” is not a word I throw around lightly. For me, it is not a constant but rather something experienced in a moment and is then gone. I do not chase after it. I do not mourn its loss. But for me, it is something that does not come often. Not because I am a depressive sort of person but because “joy” has a sacredness to it that I do not take lightly. That does not mean that I feel joy only in a religious context. Far from it. More than anything else in my life, dogs bring me to joy in nanoseconds. My spouse likes to say that they light up a certain part of my brain. I have to agree. We all have things that light up our brains in joy.
Kahlil Gibran and Rumi talk about joy and sorrow existing right alongside one another. Gibran wrote, “Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” And Rumi wrote, “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter.” I find that I absolutely concur and disagree. For me, joy can just spontaneously arise from the heart or spirit. It does not need preparing for. Being nearly overwhelmed or awed by it is part of joy.
And yet, I know what Gibran writes of. When my friend’s brother suddenly died, the morning and afternoon were nothing but raw, unadulterated grief. But in the late afternoon, butterflies began to alight upon the lavender and Jacob’s Beard in bloom in her garden. We were mesmerized. The butterfly is a symbol of rebirth. Was this her brother reborn to her? We were all swept up within the beauty we were observing. It was a more tender beauty because of the death. So I understand Gibran’s words.
But I not think that sorrow lurks asleep on our beds while we sit at the table sharing a meal. Nor do I think that it is the opposite of joy. The opposite of joy for me is indifference, an inability to be internally moved by what is before us or what we experience. Joy and sorrow can inhabit the same space but they can exist independent of the other. Sorrow we cannot avoid in our lives. But joy… I am going to work on cultivating it.