The Thieves of Joy, The Bringers of Jollity

There is an endless list of the thieves of joy; hate, fear, bigotry, jealousy, anger, violence, deception, sadness, grief. The thieves are all around us, and it seems their ranks grow every day.  They come for others more than they come for me, but still they came, and at some point, stole my joy.

I can remember joy. The memories are like the moments spent looking at a diorama in a museum.  They look like the real thing, but they fall short of evoking the same feelings.  I enjoy looking at them, but I know seeing the real thing is what I really need and can be life changing.

When you search for images of joy, you find people jumping and cheering, but my joy has always looked a little different.

Dipping hot feet in a cold stream.

Watching sunlight shine through the underside of leaves, making them glow with life.

Seeing the perfect silver arc as a fish bends from side to side.

The cup of tea that is just the right temperature.

The hand raised in defiance and for justice.

The loaf of bread that comes out just right, the alchemy of grain, water, yeast and heat.

The smile and laughter of loved ones when they feel at peace.

The perfect, sleep-inducing combination of sun on my skin, water in my ears, and the breeze in my hair.

My life has not been entirely devoid of these things the last few years, but I have not felt much of the joy in them. It has felt like the thieves created a glass wall that let me see all these things, but not feel them.

Then everything broke…personally, as a nation, professionally.

So now, I’m being selfish. I’m keeping much more of my time and energy for myself. I’m being here for my family. I’m retreating to the woods and the rivers. I’m raising the occasional fist in defiance. I’m trying to be ok with not being productive every minute of every day.

The thieves lurk, and to be clear, I know how privileged I am to ignore them and not spend every minute of every day fighting them, but I’m starting to feel the tiniest moments of joy again. Two days ago I was out walking with my brother-in-law and my Dad. They were walking ahead, and I was meandering along behind them, just breathing slowly, seeing a thousand greens, smelling evergreens, hearing the birds and cascades. The Japanese concept of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku [森林浴]) makes sense to me. As we walked, I caught tiny glimpses of joy, not just the images I remember, but the actual feeling. Like anything broken, it takes time and effort to heal.  If the thieves have stolen your joy, I hope you are able to find a moment, to breath in the forest, or freshly baked bread, or revel in a pair of smiling eyes, and start to get your joy back.

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