Discovering more joy does not, I am sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu
p. 12 The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
My Wednesday morning meeting of the School for Contemplative Living is reading the Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The above quote from Archbishop Tutu caused me a good bit of reflection of late. With my cancer diagnosis, I am finding a sense of peace and contentment unlike anything I experienced before.
At the same time, I accept that:
- my back and neck pains will always be with me and likely increase through time. Fatigue, nausea and all of those other cancer things are likely on the horizon too.
- my doctor visits, medical tests, and medications of today will likely increase in the future.
- and cancer or not, I cannot beat being mortal.
But I also accept that:
- there is joy in watching my dog eat its food, sit on the back porch with me, or go into ecstasy at the sight (or sound) of me picking up her leash.
- there is joy in walking to Casamento’s for half an oyster loaf for lunch.
- there is joy in still easily biking 10 miles.
- there is joy in seeing my winter crops of beets, spinach, and bok choy coming along. We harvested our lemon tree just before the recent cold snap and the grapefruit made it through without freezing.
- there is joy in coming up with an idea for a new ritual where we will be to buy a fruit tree each year to decorate as an indoor Christmas tree, and then plant in the yard after the first of the year.
- there is joy in realizing I still do own a leather coat and wool cap that I could wear to keep warm when I walked to church yesterday morning.
I am joyful that the AA Promises (Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 83-84) are in my life, today:
1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. 2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. 3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. 4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. 5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. 6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. 7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. 8. Self-seeking will slip away. 9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. 10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. 11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. 12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
I know I got the better end of the deal when years ago I traded in the bottle of my addictions to plant the seeds of the joys I can harvest today!