Ukraine...could our hearts break any more? IN the struggled to wish that there was something...anything...that each of us could do to be of help or service, a book I am reading by Valarie Kaur provided a simple, profound answer:
"Joy is possible even amid great labors-the labor of dying, the labor of birthing, and the labors between. We cannot force it. But when we create moments to breathe between labor pains, and surrender our senses to the present moment, notice the colors and light and feeling of being alive, here, together, joy comes more easily. It is a felt sense in our bodies. In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily, in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let joy in is a revolutionary act. Joy returns us to everything good and beautiful and worth fighting for...Joy is the gift of love."*
My father entrusted me with an indelible teaching when he was dying: through pain and suffering he looked up at all of us and weakly said, "Count your blessings." Each year that I age I come to understand more and more the depth of that life lesson. I pass along a variation for all of us in this precarious historical time: count your joys.
Kaur is right: joy is the gift of love. I was gifted this week by my dear colleague, who shared a photo of himself holding his first newborn grandchild... a beautiful little girl. Joy radiated even from a JPEG on a smart phone screen. A man of words by profession, he was awestruck at the profundity of the moment. There are no words to describe the ineffable joy spilling over with love. Yet all understood.
Joy is meant to be shared. Joy comes in small and in large packages. It is ours, always, the gift of love, even in the most troubling times of our human existence. It can be accessed and brings hope: as Kaur noted it brings us "the colors and light and feeling of being alive, here, together." It reminds us always that life can be precarious, but each moment of it is always precious and to be lived fully. Count those moments of joy in your day. Count those moments of joy, especially in your moments of heartbreak or despair: that feeling of being alive, here, together is our lifeline.
Today I've counted the visitation of a hummingbird just outside my window, drinking quickly from the pink and white flowers on this normally non-descript shrub. I've counted the joy and abandon of Vivaldi's "Four Season". I've counted the joy of a true friend, asking a difficult question, the answer to which opened in to tears and relief and that 'feeling of being alive, here, together.' I've counted the joy of simply knowing joy, and its repeated gifts and revelations, in my life.
Count your joys, it is good for the tired compassionate heart, the longing to reach out and help and not knowing how, the restoration of peace.
* Kaur, Valarie. See No Stranger.. A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love. New York: Penguin Random House, 2020.