I wrote my blog post on Friday. This isn't it.
This has been a rough rough week. My Friday blog post was written in a brief moment when the dark clouds parted and a little sunshine came through. I'm not feeling that sunshine this morning, and so that post will have to wait until I once again feel what it says.
The fact is I had no desire to post a blog at all this morning. It's 2AM as I write this, another of many 2AMs this week up facing my demons: I feel angry, disillusioned, disappointed, hurt. And that's an improvement -- a reduction in adjectives that this week have also included lonely, furious, sad, isolated, grief-stricken and terrified. In that light, to post a cheerily hopeful blog about this week's practice of joy feels, frankly, disingenuous.
But I made a promise to myself to show up to this practice no matter what. So, as I was washing dishes last night, a new topic came to me: Sometimes joy comes in bountiful abundance. Other times, it's like scraping together the loose change from the bottom of your purse and your coat pockets. But that's the point of having a practice, isn't it? You have to keep slogging through and finding some joy every single day. Because the crumbs of joy will eventually lead us out of the dark woods.
These are the words I heard: When the price of joy feels too high, you have to find your own sliding scale.
So for today's blog, it's time to pull out the trusty old standby -- the core joy practice: My Gratitude List.
I have had one or two Dark Nights of the Soul -- in the past half decade. . .many many more over my lifetime. There are many excellent books about the dark night of the soul, but my personal favorite is by Gerald G. May. Reading this profound book taught me the willingness to let go -- even of the spiritual practices that once felt like my only true comforts. Because, May remind us, "The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely."
So, the chief item on my gratitude list this week was knowing that I knew what the hell was happening to me. My wonderful friend Mary texted me this week that January was her Janus Horribilis. She has been ill, and it has taken her much longer to recuperate than she wants. This week was my Semanus Horribilis. But the one thing that made it bearable was understanding that I am, once again, having all the rugs pulled out from under me so that I can rebuild the firm foundation of my life in Love, grace, mercy, and joy. Knowing that this is what I am choosing makes it more bearable to be pummeled by the wrecking ball that comes into all of our lives when we need to be reduced back to our essentials.
The next item on my gratitude list was recognizing that I have a choice in how I respond to the old triggers that surfaced in droves this week. And so, instead of succumbing to self-loathing and self-hatred, I felt anger. Trust me -- for me, that's an improvement. Self-loathing and self-hatred are hopeless, an ontological throwing in of the towel that makes me hate my own cowardice and lack of self-advocacy. Anger, while unfamiliar, feels like a more honest assessment of a situation that no longer serves me. If you had told me even a few months ago that I would be grateful to feel anger, I would have said you were nuts. But sometimes anger is the crucible in which we begin to separate the dross from the gold.
The third item was productivity. (A be-grateful-for-small-blessings category if there ever was one.) Every time I had an opportunity to do something that would connect me to other people and to joy this week, something came up. Technology failed, I had a business meeting that I had forgotten, an appointment took longer than planned. As a result, I spent six days working 18 hours a day without ever leaving my house except to walk out my stress. But the result was a pretty decent level of productivity. At the end of every day, through all the nasty emotions I was experiencing, I begrudgingly admitted that, at the very least, I was getting many many things ticked off my very very long to do list.
Last night was the crowning moment. For the past year, I have had so many technological issues with Apple that they finally escalated me to some lofty level of tech support where they actually fix it on their side. They told me it would take five days. When I called earlier this week to tell them that a month had passed, I received this upbeat assessment of the situation: "We have no idea what is happening or whether we can ever fix it. If I were you, I would resign yourself to it not working." (On that same morning, the news announced that Apple had finally been toppled as the most valuable stock in the world. Small wonder, I thought to myself.) And then, miraculously, I received a call on Friday telling me that they had done their part and I could turn on everything again. Hell no, I thought. I'm not doing this alone. I'm not ending up right back where I started. But after leaving countless messages for my Senior Advisor, it looked like that was my only option.
And then, along came Randal -- a cheery, funny, clever, kind, non-condescending, nice advisor who spent THREE AND A HALF HOURS on the phone with me from 7 to 10:30 PM last night, not only walking me through every step of the reboot, but explaining it all, and troubleshooting things that no one had uncovered, which would have doomed this "fix" to go the routes of every other "fix" that hasn't worked for a year. We worked together for so long that he was late going home. And while we were at it, we had a thoroughly enjoyable conversation about many many interesting things. When it was all done, and -- hopefully -- working, I got this email from him: My incredible pleasure helping you resolve your year old issue and resolve that pesky iCloud issue! Best Saturday evening ever.
In a thoroughly unexpected way, Randal, yes it was.
The fourth and final item on my gratitude list is a poem by David Whyte. At one of the lower (though not by any means the lowest) moments this week, I hiked up the hill by my house yesterday morning in a state of anxiety and lonely isolation. I had spent most of the night up taking with God, and had cleared so much. But as I marched up the hill in lockstep prayer, I found myself wishing to feel less humanly alone. I just had no idea who to call. It came to me to listen to an Audiobook, and I was led to one I had downloaded a few months ago, but which I hadn't yet heard. It began wth the exhortation to stop having conversations that no longer serve you. Within the first ten minutes, I was both laughing and crying at my gratitude for the perfect companion on my walk -- a man I have never met but who feels like a dear friend (as I am sure he does to countless other people the world over.)
David Whyte read his poem -- and when he reads, he repeats himself numerous times so that what he hopes we will hear will sink in. It sunk in -- so deeply that my whole outlook changed.
EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU
There are days when joy feels like winning the lottery. But most of the time, joy exists on a sliding scale, coming into our lives in direct proportion to what we can "afford". I didn't want to write this blog because I liked the idea of wallowing a bit in the morass of my crappy week. But, if I'm honest with myself and you, it wasn't all that crappy. It was difficult, uncomfortable, aggravating, enervating, and upsetting, but it was also necessary, fruitful, clarifying, and true. And in that sense, it was also very very hopeful. Yes, I spent most of the week physically alone, but I felt the companioning described in every line of David Whyte's glorious poem over and over again.
Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone.
To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
At times, the phone speaker WAS my dream-ladder to divinity.
And thus this 2AM blog -- in which I am putting down the weight of my aloneness and am easing into the conversation with the acknowledgement that, in truth, this week was, actually, perfect. I can see how my commitment to this daily practice of joy -- to reading and posting a poem and photo every day on my Facebook page, to reading and journaling every morning just for myself, to walking every day while listening to music or audiobooks, to looking for beauty wherever I am, and to writing this weekly blog -- is paying off.
And as the proof in the pudding, it is now 2:45AM, and I just came back upstairs to bed after letting my 15-year-old Dalmatian out to pee . . . after both of us fell down my very hard stairs while tripping over one another. But as with my blog, Falling and Flying, from last summer, we both landed hard, squealed a little, and got back up with nothing worse than a few bruises . . .and immense gratitude to be on our feet. A much-needed reminder that, as my teenage snowboarding dude philosophized, "Dude, you have to get over the idea that falling is bad!"
We all want joy to feel like being at Disneyland with your best friends and no lines on any of the rides. Sometimes, joy is falling down during a dark night and getting back up with gratitude. But most of the time, joy is a much subtler blessing:
Everything is waiting for us all.
Knowing this IS the daily practice of joy