I’ve been thinking about this question because I’ve had them, joy and moments of happiness. Even as I’ve watched personal and collective fear take hold because of the virus, I still experience small and longer periods of time when things are, and I am fine, even good-ish. Of course I have relatives and friends who are on some of the front lines (love to niece Randie Scondotto Shapiro and like-family Kendall Rookey). And I know people who are losing jobs and security and more. I really get that ….. I read the news and am quite aware that these struggles and darkness are real, all over the world. So what’s up with moments of happiness and even gratitude?
Two caveats: 1. While this may sound somewhat analytical and while it does come from some reflection, these thoughts are also as a result of feeling other’s struggles and the world wide fear on a deeper level than ever before, not just cerebral. The other day I listened to a podcast by a longtime respected western teacher of meditation Sylvia Boorstein. And her insights, commentary and laughter helped integrate some of my impressions.
2. While this may sound like I know what’s true for others, it’s not and I don’t. The only thing I can say for certain is that occasionally I feel what’s right for me. I hope that if anything I share is valuable to anyone else; it’s reason enough to share.
So, Is it disingenuous to even ask the title question? People are struggling all over the world and most of us have never experienced this level of uncertainty anxiety and universal imbalance. It feels like the economic, relational and political turmoil this pandemic has exposed would blot out any semblance of personal joy.
My current take on the question is that we can absolutely experience happiness gratitude and even joy in the midst of this turmoil. And as many others have said, it’s kind of necessary to strengthen our psychic and physical immune systems.
But how do you get to that place in this incredibly challenging time? This isn’t some lovey dovey pie in the sky attempt at positivity.
We’re often tricked by the things we hear and read; that it’s a simple thing to “choose joy over fear” or the proverbial ‘glass half full or half empty’ metaphor. But especially these days, it’s not simply a matter of choosing. Or maybe it is, but it takes work too and that choosing is more possible and real only as a result of not blocking the feelings that are sad, dark and challenging. Happiness and sadness or even moments of despair come upon us like waves when we least expect it. We sometimes have to ‘let it be’ as Lennon and McCartney said.
I’m starting to see (as many of you do) that there’s been an increase in generosity. Even though there’s plenty of crappy behavior out there, we’ve also seen the ‘better angels’ surfacing as well. People, non profits and for profit companies are giving giving services and resources away or at greatly discounted prices. Symphonies, plays, art work and operas are being offered online for free! If people have information that’s helpful to the greater good they’re sharing it instead of hoarding. I have given away my book A Light Within. Others are doing the same thing and discounting prices, not out of some marketing strategy but out of a sense of “we’re in this together.”
These are some of the things that can give us pause and the kind of connection worthy of joy and happiness. Don’t you think?
If you practice something call ‘radical realism, which includes seeing even the darkest aspects of life, it can ultimately lead to a fullness, and a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Perhaps all of us, especially us boomers and those older, are seeing the end of this life more viscerally than ever before. Many of us are having moments of sensing our own mortality that sometimes gives rise to a fear of death, or at least a clarity of the certainty of earthly death. And yet that can give rise to knowing more than ever before, the preciousness of our lives and the priority of love and relationships. Many of us are reconnecting with family members and friends with this appreciation.
When we look to our neighbor and ask how they’re doing or if they need anything, there is a growing sense that we really are in this together and that the things we used to look past far too often, the connections and (the genuine care) are coming back into sharper focus. Our individual and collective attentions can be less and less focused on the petty judgments that usually take up psychic space, and more on things that matter.
It’s not that the drama and heaviness aren’t exceedingly real. But when we allow the happiness moments in, we understand that we’re allowed to feel that too. In fact in it lies our capacity to find solutions and so much more.