One of my online friends once told me about an old woman she knew, the most joyful person she’d ever met. The woman had lost everyone who had ever mattered to her, and yet somehow she exuded joy.
We marveled at the woman and wondered how she could find joy in the midst of life’s sorrow. And oh, my. There is so much sorrow. My friend had lost two of her children (lost to death, that is, not misplaced them.) I’d lost my life mate/soul mate who was also my best friend, my home, my constant companion. My friend and I were drowning in grief and anger, unable to find a way back to life. I’m now 1000 miles away from my controlled and coupled life, dealing with the chaos of a dying father and a schizoaffective, alcoholic brother. And yet, and yet . . . sometimes I catch glimpses of the joy that is to come and I understand the old woman’s bright outlook.
This morning I took my father his meager meal and kept him company while he ate. He is nothing but bones wrapped in a sack of skin and body fluids, and it seems as if his whole life now revolves around the management of those fluids. Mucus. Saliva. Urine. Feces. Blood. As I sat there, recognizing that this was the same man who sometimes terrorized me as a child, often ignored me, and occasionally showed me he cared, something shifted in my mind, and I saw life at a different slant.
If this is what it all comes down to in the end, ingesting, digesting, and egesting, then there is no reason to be anything but joyful. The dramas and traumas of our life are eliminated just as surely as the food we eat or the liquids we drink. Sitting here, I can feel joy creeping through the cracks in my life, and I welcome it. My joy does not in any way affect my father, does not make his end days any easier or harder. My joy does not in any way change my brother’s situation. He got screwed in life’s lottery, ending up with problems I can’t imagine and even if I could imagine them, I can do nothing to help besides an offer of life’s necessities.
During the past four years, I have heard many horrific stories, stories of people’s grief, stories of people’s dealings with schizophrenic sons, narcissistic mates, abusive parents. At times I felt as if the whole world was created out of tragedy and pain, and yet, without in any way diminishing those traumas, I now understand that those tragedies are not mine. I can sympathize, empathize, listen with care, but I cannot spend my life bleeding for all the wrongs of the world, though once I thought it was the soulful way to live.
Now my idea of a soulful way to live is to embrace joy. It might be naïve of me to think so, but for now, I am Visualizing a Life of Joy.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.