Mom and I were discussing something peculiar the other day as I struggled with this new reality I’ve discovered. Figuring myself out — It’s kind of similar to reading a book over and over again only to discover something new every single time.
I remember years ago an Odyssey tape was talking about the difference between ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’… that you can be joyful without necessarily being happy. In Philippians, Paul calls us to “REJOICE in the Lord always” so while I may not be happy all the time, I have been actively trying to live my life in joy.
You know those conversations with people where the person seems to be actively trying to get under your skin, actively trying to start an argument where she/he will make fun of you, pick apart parts about you they don’t like, bring up multiple things he/she knows you disagree on, almost as if the conversation isn’t initiated because they want to talk to you but rather, they are looking for an argument or trying to upset you [for whatever reason]? I had one recently and it rocked me to the core… I didn’t get angry or upset during the conversation, but later I kept thinking “What was that?” …was there any point? Where’s the joy?
However, it has become more apparent as I try to walk with a joyful step, how many people live in a state of un-joy. There are about five people at work that I particularly enjoy and/or like a little more than the rest, simply because there have been relationships forged over the last three summers. The other day, four of those five were in bad moods. I don’t know why, three of them were in moods so poisonous that I didn’t dare even ask. As the day wore on, I realized that even though I actively try not to wallow in my own unhappinesses, or bring a bad mood in front of those who didn’t cause (or deserve) it, I am largely affected by the moods of those I care about. I find it more difficult to be joyful around someone who is down than if I have semi-negative feelings towards my own day. More honestly, it is even harder to smile when I know that person is not acting as he normally would. This reality is odd, because it is interesting how easy I find it to leave my own dilemmas at home yet can become consumed by others as they’ve brought them, both directly or indirectly, to me at work (or in life in general).
So for the segment between coffee and lunch, I tried to be in a bad mood as the rest of them. I actively tried to get down on myself and my day, just to see what the point was and why. The fifth person, who was not in a bad mood noticed… and actually asked me “Kate, what are you doing?” so I told her that I was trying to be in a bad mood because everyone else was. She laughed out loud and said “Good luck with that.” Needless to say, by the time lunch was over and afternoon coffee rolled around, I had given up.
To live a joyful life doesn’t mean wearing a perma-grin or insincerely being happy all the time, but to me, means trying to remember that even though it’s not always easy or dreams haven’t come true yet, that this life is designed for me by God, and that if I get everything else wrong, I know I actively worked at living a life of joy.
There was a point in my life a number of years ago where everything had gone awry and in a last minute decision (some might say brash decision), I decided instead of staying in Calgary for the summer, I would come home to Penticton. I didn’t have a job, or a plan, or even a ride home… so when I stuffed my car with all my belongings, having to leave MANY behind in my room as a result, I spent the whole 8 hour ride home thinking “what am I going to do?”… all I knew was that I had to get away from the city to think and to pray and I Just wasn’t sure. Mom warned me “You better be prepared to get a job right away.” And I was terrified.
Then I applied at the regional district, where I’ve now since learned just happened to have their previous summer student find a job elsewhere, someone who would’ve returned if she hadn’t. And lo and behold, I was hired and have been told I am allowed to return as long as I am in school and need summer work. I got the job about 5 days upon returning to Penticton…and I never looked back.
The point is that every time I walk into work, I am overcome with joy to the fact that that place is an absolute answer to prayer in a vulnerable moment, and highly unjoyful period in my life… so it is easy to lead a life of joy when I am walking around in it because the whole building has been an example of God’s lifesaving tactics.
I know this is completely muddled, and perhaps I even lost my point along the way… but that’s okay. After my experiment of trying to be in a bad mood, I have decided that to lead a life that is not peppered with joy is way too much of a sacrifice and a loss, especially considering how much God has given me.
The problem with this reality is that I still hurt for those who can’t see this, so as this week wore on I realized that the frown or sadness on my face were not because I had a problem but because others did. Doesn’t seem normal, does it? I am not exerting my perfection, by any means, what I am trying to say is that leading a life of pure joy is probably made more difficult because others’ lack of joy more than by my own lack of faith. For me, anyhow.
On another note: Any book recommendations?