joy to the world

A few days into December, I was reflecting on how beneficial the November gratitude challenge is for me – the impetus to write daily warms me up for other writing, and the topic itself is nurturing to my soul. I decided I would like to adopt a topic for December to continue the motivation to write daily, even if I only wrote a sentence and didn’t edit its grammar and shared it with no one. Immediately the topic leaped into mind: joy. For the past year or two of gratitude posts, a lot of my rambling has had to do with unpacking the concept of gratitude itself, in addition to the obvious counting of blessings. Metagratitude posts, where I’m thankful for thankfulness. I didn’t think I had quite as much of a handle on joy, so it was time to explore.

As I listed things that brought me what I thought might be joy each day, I noticed they were all the same things that I was writing about in November, all the things for which I feel gratitude – I just continued to add more popcorn and cranberries to the string. Wait, I thought, maybe I’m just not good at joy, and I’m confusing it with gratitude, since I’ve been getting better at that, with practice.

Then I got to the chapter in Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly that deals with foreboding joy as one of the obstacles to vulnerability. In that chapter, she spelled out how her research drew a very clear connection between those who experience joy, 100% of whom were those who included a gratitude practice in their life. “Gratitude, therefore, emerged from the data as the antidote to foreboding joy. In fact, every participant who spoke about the ability to stay open to joy also talked about the importance of practicing gratitude. This pattern of association was so thoroughly prevalent in the data that I made a commitment as a researcher not to talk about joy without talking about gratitude.” Then I clicked my heels together three times, because joy was already in my grasp, the gratitude I needed was with me all along.

Last night at the Christmas show at the PAC, I was feeling distinctly joyful as we sang Joy to the World along with the merry crowd. Rich and I were a little bit star-struck, after having our first conversation with Bobbie Lippmann, a woman we consider to be a local celebrity, during intermission. Rich gets the local newspaper, and whenever there is a new Bobbi’s Beat column, it can be found sitting on my chair where he leaves it for me to read after he gets done. We have both been reading her for years, mourning with her the loss of her husband Burt, and relishing her positive outlook on life and wonderful sense of humor. As she merged into the line for hot cocoa with us, Rich told her of our fandom and she shared that she and Burt would have been celebrating their 50th anniversary this month. She told us that this time of year, this year in particular, has been hard on her, and that she has considered throwing in the towel. We told her today would be our anniversary, eight years together. She looked us right in the eye and told us, “make the most of the time you have together. You just don’t know how long you have.” We assured her we planned to do just that. She seemed heartened, and asked our names, optimistic that maybe she had more to say, after all.

Today I am feeling very grateful/joyful to be making the most of my time with my love of eight years. We went on a nice breakfast date followed by a Star Wars date, and have been relaxing together beside the rainbow-lit tree all afternoon. I am grateful for the way he reached out to Bobbie (I have been wanting to tell her how much I admire her for years, but he had the nerve to greet her by name and start the conversation) and also so very grateful for her willingness to be vulnerable with us, two strangers in the hot cocoa line, and share something so personal and meaningful. Vulnerability leading to gratitude, gratitude leading to joy to the world. While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy, I’ll be here repeating the sounding gratitude.

Happy anniversary, Rich! I love you!

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