"Joy is the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. Great delight. Keen pleasure. Elation. An expression or display of glad feeling. A state of happiness or felicity."
This is how I define joy today. What a laugh when I think of how far removed it is from my life a few years ago. Felicity was a girl’s name and the only keen pleasure was smoking crack and that glad feeling was fleeting. I lived in fear, any confidence was noisy – a bravado covering a constant state of inner fear. That nothing would be alright. Fear of being found out, fear of not having enough money, fear of losing my 2 children, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of love, fear of life. The only thing I didn’t fear was death. No, I did not know joy.
Yes, I could tell you lots about joylessness and despair. We all have our own personal rock bottoms, hells, nightmares, dark dungeons so I won’t bore you with the details other than chronic drug addiction led to all sorts and devastated those around me.
I wasn’t born that way. I was loved (for the first year) then given away. An early childhood attempt to make sense of the suffering of separation is shame – there’s something wrong with me. As I grew up that shame clouded the bundle of joy I had been – my SPIRIT (true joy is divine in its origin) diminishing as I took on negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours from my primary caregivers. Taking on roles, people, addictions – anything to soothe, anything to connect, anything to feel safe and secure. Our survival depends on it. Trauma (small t or big T) needs soothing. If we don’t have anyone to support us and help us heal our acute childhood experiences (ACE) then we find our own ways to make it feel better. Addiction is a soothing, whatever the flavour of addiction is – food, fantasy, sex, stealing, substances, lying, busyness, shopping. Addiction strips away anything joyful. It creates a disconnect with self and others. So how to get connected?....
Replace fear with faith, a fundamental foundation of recovery from addiction. Having faith and the spiritual principles of honesty, open mindedness and willingness catapult us into what A.A. call the fourth dimension or the sunlight of the spirit. This is my experience. This is where I know joy is. Joy is in the daily appreciation of the tiny and tremendous, gratitude for the life lived.
Joy is in making the heart sing. Make a list and you may find snippets somewhere. My moments of joy this last month: belly laughter being daft with friends and colleagues, looking after and playing with rescued animals, running around with my Bedlington, Bowie, regular injections of music including a Patti Smith gig with my step parents and live Thai rendition of Oasis’ “Stand By Me”, goddess dancing in the Himalayas, protesting for a Free Tibet, white water rafting down the Ganges, drinking virgin pina coladas watching a Goan sunset with my brilliant witchy girlfriend, being coated in luminous bodypaint raving til dawn, sitting in wind and sunshine on Howarth moors, seeing my son laugh, remembering my daughter’s “fuck that shit man” phrase, reading Wuthering Heights (again), eating delicious vegan food, tasting my first batch of homemade kombucha, swimming in a cold river with Bowie, sitting on a huge tree trunk in ancient woods, bat watching snuggled up with an old boyfriend, yelling -hands free - on the back of a bike, dancing with strangers, watching faces soften, smiles, sweetness, silliness, sassiness.
Children find one of four main ways to build their own emotional and spiritual resilience in childhood: creativity, nature, animals and sport.
What are you doing today to build your resilience and bring you joy? What lit you up as a child will light you up today. Choice is yours.