Openings to joy

“Being with joy means being willing to be stretched, to expand to hold it all. With joy, we are stretched to take in the enormity of it all—ourselves, the world, the mystery. And this frightens us. We have been taught that if we have too great a sense of our own largeness, we will lack humility or invite dangerous envy.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I’ve mentioned before that I am participating in a book discussion group of The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. In previous weeks, we have talked about longing, fear and sorrow. As someone who tends to live beneath the surface of life, these are all comfortable, familiar topics to me. While I still have room to grow in my relationship with each one of them, I do have an intimate relationship with each one. I know them. I live and move and have my being in them. I breathe them in and know what it is like to have them permeate my being.

Tonight our topic was joy. For most people I know, this would be an enormous relief after the weighty topics of the last few weeks. For me, the moment I saw the topic, I felt my body tighten in an instinctual preparation for a blow. As I read the chapter, I resonated with Oriah’s words below about someone she knew who was afraid of feeling the joy of a new romance.

“Joy scares her more than pain. Pain is familiar. Joy breeds dangerous hope and the potential for disappointment.”

Ah yes, dangerous hope. I’ve talked before about my struggles with hope. It can be a costly thing. The last time I felt this kind of joy related to a new relationship, it wound up in the deepest, most devastating heartbreak of my life. So if joy breeds this dangerous hope, it’s not surprising that I would resist it.

I’ve also found too often that expressing joy can lead to the dangerous envy she talks about in my opening quote. When I have allowed others to see my joy, it has so often led to rejection—sometimes rejection of me due to envy, but even more often a rejection of the fullness of my experience by attempting to either diminish the thing about which I am joyful or to diminish any cost I may have paid to get to the place of joy. The rejection hurts. It’s easier to hide the joy or not to feel it at all.

All these things about my relationship with joy I already knew. As I read Oriah’s words and participated in our book discussion tonight, though, I realized two new things about my relationship with joy that give me something to ponder.

First, I realized that I am most likely to experience joy in unexpected moments when I am alone. It often happens when I’m out in nature, or sometimes when I’m doing something I love (like reading or writing), or sometimes in simple moments by myself as I discover some part of me that I delight in. I have known joy on occasion in the company of others, but it’s a rare thing. It’s not safe to have my joy connected to others—it’s how my heart gets broken, as it has been too many times. It’s not safe to let others see it because the cost is too high. But in my moments alone, I can let go of my barriers and let it spring forth in those quiet moments when life feels like it is all that it can be and more.

The second thing I realized is that the more I am learning to move away from co-dependency and learn to live within my own life and in my own power, those moments where joy seeps in are growing ever more abundant. For each piece of me that I reclaim, my access to joy grows that much larger. You see, as long as I was giving myself away to everyone else, trying to meet their needs and be the person they wanted me to be, there wasn’t enough “me” left to marvel at much of anything. As I move toward living a truly authentic life in my own skin, in my own power, in my own Self, the openings for joy to bubble up into are multiplying.

I suspect I will find over time as I find a way to continue to live my own truth in a more open fashion, I will come to have the same intimate knowledge of joy and its ability to permeate my life as I already do of the more challenging emotions I spoke of earlier. I also suspect that as I continue to learn to reclaim my own power and to openly live within my own truth, that I will be able to create a tribe around me that will make it safe to feel joy and show them my joy. I see that day coming. I feel it drawing closer. I may yet have some steep costs to pay to get there, but the joy will be worth it. Of that I am sure.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.

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  1. Pingback: What Lightness and joy did not anticipate- 2 « Healing Betrayal

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