As is the way of things, I was vaguely listening the wireless en route to work last week, tuning out the adverts, hoping for a traffic update and generally bopping along to whatever muzak the morning show threw in my general direction. Sometimes lyrics catch my ear and stick with me for the day, an earworm that interrupts me at odd moments as it plays and replays some part of a tune. This time I could blame the earworm on John Mellencamp – or on Jack & Diane, depending on how you look at it. Either way, the refrain of Oh yeah, life goes on… long after the thrill of living is gone… stayed with me long after the work day was done and dusted.
Thinking about it later I realised that every time I hear that song I reject the notion that life can become joyless, that it can become something so mundane and ordinary that it just goes on because it hasn’t yet ended. I view joyfulness – and enjoyment – as a skill, something that can be learned and then honed, be practised and taught to others. It’s a state of mind, a way of looking at both yourself and the world around you in a way that allows you to see the positives.
I understand that different people at different times have more or less capacity to cope with life, with personal and interpersonal problems, stress and conflict. Learning to be joyful is about expanding that capacity. Not necessarily by making more time for yourself or following some 10-step plan for a better life, although both of these may be valid options, but by focusing your attention on the present moment. I find that it’s about being IN that moment, being mindful of it and making the most of what can be found there. It’s about capturing what is found – however small it is – and holding it for just long enough to make your day feel worthwhile.
Joyfulness can be learned. I believe it can also be relearned – as long as you don’t let yourself believe in letting go of the thrill that is life. Today I noticed that our rosemary bush at the front gate has started to flower. It made me smile. That smile made me feel good about the day. Feeling good about the day helped me to be more tolerant, to find some pleasure in things that might otherwise have slipped my attention. Each time I do this, each time I find something to make me smile, it makes it that much easier to do so the next day. And the next.
My joyful – and lasting – moment today started with it being a lovely spring day. Since I was working from home, I chose to have lunch outside in the garden. This is a happy thing in its own right, but was enhanced by our puppy rushing over to say hello to me. Her tail was wagging madly and, as soon as I sat down, she dropped her very chewed bone on my lap. She then pushed the bone into my hand and stood leaning against me, gnawing on the gummy end in a very companionable (and sticky!) sort of way. Pure gold!