Marianne Williamson said, "Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." And someone in a Sunday School class once told me that happiness describes a state of being entirely based on chance and circumstance.
So, I've spent much of my life since then -- knowing happiness would come and go -- in desperate pursuit of lasting joy. And gratefully, I've experienced untold joy. I know that I know that I know that I live a rich life, and I am blessed. I love and I am loved. And most of the time I can see it, smell it, taste it and hear it.
But the thing is, joy doesn't always feel good. And recently, I haven't felt well.
Something shifted in me, at the end of last October. I could feel sadness setting in. It was subtle and low-grade, but difficult to miss. So I called on joy and practiced gratitude, yet the sadness remained. And I got older and went to the spa and celebrated holidays and spent time with family, with friends and with myself, yet the sadness remained. And I shifted my attitude and got outdoors and I danced and I prayed and I indulged, and still the sadness remained.
I'm learning to accept the summits and valleys of the good life, and I don't feel the fear I once felt in the dark, but I began this year a little sadder, a little sicker and a little more scared than I have been in years. And the things that once brought me great joy in the past weren't working in the present.
So the timing of the family trip I planned on a whim in December couldn't have been more perfect come January. We spent the end of last month and good chunk of change at the happiest place on earth.
It's for the kids -- I thought.
Paul and I were investing in lifelong childhood memories, I proposed. But, on this side of the wonderful world of Disney, I can see that I too bought into the magic hook, line and sinker. I loved (LOVED) it, and here I am plugging Disneyland(?!). Just as much, if not more than my kiddos, I felt giddy and glad and warmth and sunshine in each step. I laid off and laid back, and I had a fabulous time.
"This is the best day of our lives," Paul and I decided and declared before we left our hotel for our first of two days at Disneyland; it may very well have been. The more we said it, the more we believed it. I felt something I haven't felt in a while, but I realize now that I desperately needed: happy.
Two-and-a-half weeks have passed since we returned from California, and I feel different.
Today, I'm reminded of three words I read from this chair in the first few days of this year. Buried beneath a blanket, with a sore throat and a bruised spirit, I read that we need both. It didn't hit me back then like it's hitting me now: Joy matters -- of course -- but happiness does too. While they are two entirely different entities, they are equally important. Contrary to what I think I've believed, I need both.
While we were in California, I let loose, skipped around and allowed myself to feel happy even though I knew it would end. And it did. The kids and I felt especially sad our last day in California when we walked right past Disneyland, but didn't go inside. The Seahawks won the Superbowl the day after we returned, and I felt more happiness... but then came Monday.
I'm sitting in my same old chair, our beloved fish has died and Mickey Mouse is nowhere in sight. I've been upset with Paul for two days, I haven't danced in weeks and it's rained -- poured -- the last three days. Nevertheless, I definitely feel differently since we've been back.
It's joy. It's back.
I passed on yoga this morning and ran instead. I made myself breakfast, scrubbed my feet and painted my toenails red. I'm writing, and I feel joy. I think the momentary, fleeting, commercial, marketing genius and fabulous pleasure of allowing myself to feel happy has had a lot to do with it.
This is new for me, and I'm not sure what to make of it except to say that I feel good. I'm recognizing how good things really are, and it's making my day.