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Finding Joy

David Spero

December 23, 2009

I was going to write about drugs or food or medical care or one of those hot topics. Then I figured, “it’s Christmas. Write about more important things.” So let’s talk about finding the joy in life. That’s pretty important, and sometimes it’s not so easy.

Some people seem to stay in the joy zone most of the time. Their glucose might be high, their neuropathy severe, and their bank account low. They still look at the bright side and say things like, “Every day alive is a wonderful gift from God.”

Do they really mean it, or are they pretending? If they do mean it, how do they do it? Do they deny their personal and social problems exist? Are they confident in being able to handle those problems, or do they just trust God to make everything OK, or what?

I really wonder about how people skate through the economic, political, and environmental crises without getting down. Global warming can keep me awake nights wondering if my children or anybody’s children have a future on this planet. That is really depressing. But I can’t do anything about it — I already live no-car — so best not to worry about it too much, I guess.

Someone gave me a CD by Eckhart Tolle, one of Oprah’s favorite gurus. It’s called “Even the Sun Will Die.” The message is to get over yourself. The separate self is an illusion; we’re all parts of a larger whole. All that self-centered thinking we do just keeps us from seeing the beautiful world as it is. Makes sense to me; sounds a lot like Buddhism. I haven’t gotten to the part yet about how you actually make these changes.

Of course, psychologists have studied how to keep a positive attitude. I read an article on EverydayHealth.com on coping with unemployment, since job loss is a major fear or reality for many of us. Quoting psychotherapist Jerilyn Ross, the article advises keeping a diary, exercising, socializing, and getting enough rest. Ross also recommends changing overly negative thoughts to more realistic ones.

But those suggestions don’t speak to joy. Can beliefs, thoughts, or practices bring you joy? Is it a habit you can develop? How much do outside circumstances limit or promote joy? Is joy even a worthwhile or reasonable thing to want? Or is it just being selfish? Does seeking joy make it harder to find? Maybe all we can do is accept, and joy will come if it wants to.

Do your beliefs bring you joy? It’s Christmas now — does thinking about the Christmas story make you feel happy or peaceful?

I realize joy might be a lot to ask for in a world where so many are suffering, and while we are suffering too in our own ways. But it would be nice. It would be good to bring joy to others, but I don’t know how to do that either. It may happen by accident sometimes.

Well, this wasn’t a very joyful article about joy. Reading it over, I think that off-and-on depression may be creeping up on me again. It seems like I have to ask you guys for help every couple of months. But one of the things about illness is the way it makes you look at what’s important in life. So I’ll appreciate any thoughts you have on the subject.

With or without joy, have a really Merry Christmas!



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