Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finding Joy

heart shaped boxThe further I wake into this life, the more I realize that God is everywhere and the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of all that in ordinary.   Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and music is in both the flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage pipe.  Yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountain, and joy is in both the front row and the bleachers, if we are willing to be where we are.  ~Mark Nepo

I heard an interview recently with Mark Nepo in which this passage was read.  I have thought a lot about it over the past few weeks and I purchased the Kindle version of Mark’s book The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. 

The above is an excerpt from a larger passage in which Mark talks about being able to find joy in small things. 

So many of us have been trained to think that being particular about what we want is indicative of good taste, and that not being satisfied unless our preferences are met is a sign of worldliness and sophistication. I remember being at a party where a woman wouldn’t accept her drink unless it was made with a certain brand of vermouth. She was, in fact, indignant about it. Or going to dinner with a colleague who had to have his steak prepared in a complex and special way, as if this particular need to be different was his special public signature.  Or watching very intelligent men and women inscribe their circle of loneliness with criteria for companionship that no one could meet.  I used to maintain such a standard of excellence around the sort of art I found acceptable.

Often, this kind of discernment is seen as having high standards, when in actuality it is only a means of isolating ourselves from being touched by life, while rationalizing that we are more special than those who can’t meet our very demanding standards.

The devastating truth is that excellence can’t hold you in the night, and, as I learned when ill, being demanding or sophisticated won’t help you survive.  A person dying of thirst doesn’t ask if the water has chlorine or if it was gathered in the foothills of France.  

As I said, this has made a huge impact on me recently.  My attitude over the last few weeks has been poor and this passage keeps coming back to me, reminding me of what is important in my life.  Reminding me there is joy.

I think about some of my favorite times in life, many of which I have written about here.  I go immediately to the memories of being on my grandparent’s farm.  My sister reminded me last week of the sounds of the frogs and crickets at night outside the window.  I remember the sunshine and cool breeze coming through the open window beside the daybed while the old metal fan swung from side to side.  The smell of my grandmother making breakfast early in the morning.  Picking blackberries, chasing fireflies at dusk, coke floats on a hot summer night, huge country style meals with hot biscuits and homemade strawberry jelly, swinging on the grapevines from big flat rock to big flat rock to get down to the lake, jumping from the hayloft and climbing in the corncrib.

These days, as I sit in the sunroom with my windows open, a soft breeze blows in the warm late afternoon and that feeling returns, the feeling that I realize now is joy.  I am reminded that there is joy every day that I miss because I have been too busy looking at the negative of every day life.  The hot coffee in my favorite cup from Anthropologie, meeting friends for a quick chat at our favorite coffee shop, riding in the car through the country while a friend introduces me to where she grew up and shares the memories from each house or store or creek along the road, stopping at an old drive-in for hot crinkle cut fries and a homemade banana milkshake, meeting my daughter for a margarita and people watching on the square, my son posting a quote from his favorite childhood book on my facebook wall – “I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be”.

I hope I always remember to recognize and appreciate the joy that is there in life every day.
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