Just Life

Choose | August 2021.

seen on this morning’s walk

It’s the last Tuesday of August and time for this month’s OLW update. The month started off on a high note when Holly visited the groomer and the vet on the 5th and the vet joked with me that he hoped he wouldn’t see us again this year. My knee was feeling better (it still is), and I started playing a little tennis and walking in the mornings with Marc. and then things just stopped being ok. Maybe it’s an August thing for me because it felt a lot like last year (except for questioning my Enneagram type 😉 )  Thankfully, the lessons I learned then helped this year, too. I re-committed to my morning practice, especially the centering prayer time, and joined another community prayer group. I made coffee dates with a new friend. I kept up with the news, and found new ways to engage online. I gave myself permission to let things slide when I was in the middle of a good book. I said “yes!” to two new opportunities. I realized I was getting back to my basics … stillness, gratitude, connection, joy, courage … and making those choices helped.

And sometimes they felt hard. Courage of course (because always … but those two new opportunities were so worth it).

and also Joy. with headlines about full-to-bursting ICU’s, parents suing school boards over mask mandates, fires, floods, and war, finding joy in a beautifully written story or a bed of colorful flowers seemed shallow and somehow out of place. Still, I know in my heart that joy matters; it’s rooted in my faith. I believe in a God who created us out of love, to be joyful. I imagine my joy making God smile. It becomes a sacred act.

Ingrid Fetell Lee (author of Joyful) shared a thoughtful post last week “Can you still find joy when it feels like the world is ending?” She offers up a few different reasons to embrace joy in the midst of All This. The whole post is certainly worth your time, and if time is short, here are the three key points I noted:

“In a favorite poem of mine, A Brief for the Defense, Jack Gilbert writes:

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

The first lines of the excerpt are oft-quoted, but it’s these last lines that I think about again and again. It’s taken me a long time to learn that denying ourselves joy doesn’t lessen the suffering of others. And it diminishes the value of life when we reject joy and focus exclusively on the world’s pain.” 

“I think it’s more helpful to view joy as a channel toward love, and toward hope. When we allow ourselves to experience the joy of the world around us, we become attached and invested. … If wallowing in the news makes us frozen and afraid, affection and hope are more likely to inspire action.”

“Rather than avoiding our anxiety and feeling guilty about our joy, we are better off holding both together.”

I’m always a fan of a good BOTH/AND. She goes on to provide some practical tips for how to do it.

I’m still not quite where I’d like to be, and I’m most definitely ready for a new month (a new month always helps). The weather forecast once Ida blows through looks delightfully cooler (life is always easier when it’s not so stinkin’ hot and humid). September also seems like the perfect month to focus on my basics. I’m sure I’ll learn at least a few new things.

Thank you Carolyn for hosting our monthly meetup. and I’ll be back here next month!

12 Comments

  • Carolyn

    Whoa, the chills! Your paragraph on joy–chills, right up the back of my neck! Made my head tingle! You’ve packed a lot of punches in this post–and, oh my, all that on joy…it’s something to sit with. (And to delicately share with my mom, who has a tendency to dwell in darkness…perpetuate that darkness…and pass up joy, sadly.)
    I usually don’t say things like this out loud–BUT– I’m toying with the idea of Joy for My One Word next year. I know bazillions of people have chosen it; it’d be a first in its ‘category’ for me, though. And I wonder, now, if those tingles + chills were the universe saying Yes! Choose Joy! Maybe? We’ll see.
    Big exhale. It sounds like August was full, for sure, for you. I hope September gives you the opportunity to sort it out…weed it out…a bit.
    AND–I had to giggle at the very end of your post. You’ll know why when you get my mail tomorrow 🙂

  • Juliann

    To make injustice the only
    measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

    I am writing this in my planner, maybe even on a sticky note for the car. This is the reminder I needed today

  • Sarah

    I have been struggling with this very same thing — it often feels wrong to experience and look for joy, even frivolous sources of joy, when there is so much suffering in the world. But it also feels like an act of bravery and defiance to look at that suffering (fully appreciating it) and still choose to experience joy. I truly believe that it makes us better people who are better able to help others when we embrace the good in the world.

  • Kat

    I am also very happy to turn the page to September. Gah, I am really over steamy hot days! September is a great month to “begin again” and that is my plan!

  • Bonny

    We’re getting loads of Ida rain here today and tomorrow, but I am also enthusiastically welcoming September. Sometime this month we’re sure to feel cooler weather, and for me a better outlook on things. Back to basics is always a good choice!

  • karen

    I am so ready for this new month!! August has been too hot for me and also my mojo isn’t quite back, but each passing day it improves greatly so there is that to be thankful for!

  • Lydia

    Getting caught up on blog posts was like reading some good news! Am so looking forward to September, and the temps over the next few days are going to be a real blessing and joy!

  • Karen

    After reading the news today, your post really resonated. Thanks for the link to Ingrid’s post. I don’t follow her, but think I should be!

  • Alexa

    Such a rich post! Full of thought and insight … I’ve come and gone a few times today, following your links and making notes. Ingrid’s post was well worth the read, so thank-you. I love your ‘basics’ list (and think I might just make my own). Hoping the cooler weather is restorative for you and that you can nestle happily into the new month.

  • Katie @ The Cozy Burrow

    I love what you’ve written about finding joy. It’s so easy to choose to sink into the mire that we find ourselves in. It’s much harder (and braver?) to live with both the JOY and the SORROW — and know that they’re both equally important to pay attention to. I think the Buddhists call that equanamity? Or maybe not. I could be totally wrong.

    Here’s to the cooler weather and a new month for forging ahead. And focusing on the basics!