May 2014 bring peace, joy and hope to all!

Please enjoy this collage of my favorite images of joy from the past year.

best of joy

Thanks and credit to (from upper left, clockwise) 1. Kirsten Bailey 2. Facebook page for the Dalai Lama 3. Viva Institute 4. Otrazhenie 5. Facebook page for the Dalai Lama 6. Dance of Joy 1 by Monica Stewart 7. Viva Institute  8. Facebook page for Your True Voice 9.  American Kabuki 10. Oprah.com

For a look at my favorite images of peace from 2013, please visit my x0 blog here.
For a look at my favorite images of hope from 2013, please visit my z2 blog here.

Comfort and Joy

Thanks Hippie Peace Freaks

Thanks Hippie Peace Freaks

A big part of the holidays is about being joyful. Food, drink, decorations and presents are all designed to make children and grownups squeal with delight. We want those that we care about to be happy, and many of us will spend more money and time than we should trying to make that so.

Somewhere along the way, life offers up the lesson that there is no way to make someone else happy. You can make them more comfortable, or maybe make them smile for a minute. But no amount of gifts or favorite foods can make a sick child well, a grieving parent joyful, or a worried spouse content. You cannot cure the ennui in another soul, no matter how much you want to do so.

Thanks Sungazing

Thanks Sungazing

You also cannot make people behave thoughtfully. You simply can’t force them to get along, much less to like each other, if they don’t want to, no matter what day of the year it is. At best you can try to model patience and tolerance, and probably manage to keep from making an inflamed situation even worse. At worst, you get to learn the hard way that chastising family or guests for acting like children is a notoriously unsuccessful way to bring on the holiday cheer.

What can you do? I like the twin holiday concepts of comfort and joy. Offer comfort widely, liberally, and with lots of love. It won’t make everybody happy, of course. But it will make everybody more comfortable, and that may well lead to more joy. Just do what you can.

fireworks croppedAs to joy, let yourself feel it. You don’t do a single other soul any sort of favor by suffering along with them. Misery really does not like company. Rather, we are all a little contagious. If you are filled with happiness, you encourage others to allow themselves to find cheer within their own hearts. Embracing the joy inside yourself is the best gift you can give, both to yourself and to others.

Rockettes and Rockets

Click to visit the Rockette's Homepage

Click to visit the Rockette’s Homepage

If there is one career I absolutely cannot image myself pursuing, it is that of becoming a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. Seriously. Starting with my lack of rhythm and ending with my disdain of having strangers stare at my body, the list of why I would be extremely unsuited to this occupation is almost endless.

Like the Foundation for a Better Life

Like the Foundation for a Better Life

So imagine my surprise a few years back when I asked my sister-in-law, who I think the world of, what she would have been in life if she could have been anything. It seemed a harmless questions as we set together in a hot tub sharing drinks and laughing, You guessed it, in her secret dreams she is a Rockette. I was so taken aback that I didn’t know what to say.

This year for Christmas, her grown daughter took her to see a Rockette performance, and their mutual joy reverberated throughout my online social network . And I thought, good for her. This is great. She is having the time of her life doing something I have no interest in what-so-ever and isn’t it wonderful that she gets to be her.

Like Sungazing on Facebook

Like Sungazing on Facebook

There was a time years ago when she and I were looking for a movie to see together and I remember her responding to my top suggestion with “oh it sounds like one of those dumb things about outer space and rockets. I hate that stuff.” Of course, I loved movies about rocket ships and all things science fiction back then, because in my secret dreams I was an astronaut. Today, I write “that stuff”, and she cheers on my creative efforts even if she doesn’t particularly understand my interests. She is performing in the chorus of a community play this weekend, and I cheer her on too.

Rockets. Rockettes. Whatever. It takes all kinds and isn’t it nice that you don’t have to be alike to be able to enjoy someone, or to appreciate what they are. It’s enough to make me want to dance for joy. As long as I don’t have to do it wearing sequins and doing high kicks of course.

Too much joy?

cakeOne of my clearest memories is eating too much frosting as child. It tasted so wonderfully sweet all by itself that I couldn’t stop shoving globs of it into my eager eight-year-old mouth. As you might guess, I was incredibly happy for a short while, and now decades later I still don’t care much for the stuff.

click to like Your Beautiful Life

click to like Your Beautiful Life

I’ve had a bit too much emotional frosting the past couple of weeks and am suffering from a similar need to go lie down. A major family thanksgiving gathering was followed immediately by a birthday celebration that was followed by the graduation of a family member that was rolled into about ten straight days filled with food and drink and visitors and it all was very wonderful but I’ve got a tummy ache that makes me wonder if sustained joy is particularly healthy.

I think about the nature of happiness a lot, given that the ability to experience joy is one of the central themes of my novel y1.

One can wax eloquent about how we need valleys in order to have hills and while that is true, I don’t think this translates into a truth that one must endure intermittent horrible sorrow in order to feel deep joy. Perhaps it is only necessary that great times are broken up with quiet times and my problem is simply one of overload. Obviously we all need a break from rich food and alcohol, but I think that we also need a break from noise and conversation, and time to process input. No matter how much we live in the moment, at some point we need to step out of the joys of that moment and regroup. It’s a human thing.

click to like Your True Voice

click to like Your True Voice

We also need unstructured time, to do the silly and unplanned. Gatherings with loved ones can provide that, but let’s face it, they usually don’t. Groups need a certain amount of order, at least when attending functions together, and all that structure wears one out after awhile.

Joy. It comes at you lots of ways. Some weeks it’s your sister from across the country and your kids all home for a holiday and the best restaurant in Austin Texas. Other times it’s nothing but salad and fresh fruit for a day and time spent staring into the fireplace at night. Maybe even lighting a fire there first.