It doesn’t happen as often as I want it to...but there are moments in my life where I am overwhelmed by the simple, yet profound, joy of being alive.
I am never doing anything spectacular. It is just this feeling that grows up inside of me, a feeling of belonging and connection and joy that I am here, doing whatever I am doing, living this life right here, right now.
Of course, I wish I got to experience it more often but I know that it is the unpredictability of these feelings that make them great and momentus. If I felt this way all the time, it wouldn’t really be such a signifier of a life well lived. I would take it for granted and just expect to feel that way all the damn time.
I am trying to remember the last time I felt this way...it has been a minute. I have been sick for the length of this year so far and that has taken a lot of my joy for pretty much everything. It is hard to experience the joy of living when you feel like shit all the time. In fact, I feel like so far in 2024, I have just been slogging through, doing the stuff but not really enjoying much of it. I blame this upper respiratory stuff but it could be something else. I don’t know.
One of the best things about the joy of living is that it can be experienced so randomly and yet also so predictably. Right now there is a tiny cat purring on my lap, her head screwed on sideways, looking up at me, touching my face with her paw. This always makes me feel joyful and grateful to be here. To see the way she looks at me, and then the way I look at her, the trust we place in each other. Makes me happy to be awake and alive.
Sometimes, at least for me, the joy of living is almost a euphoria. Like I can’t even stand how good I feel in those moments. I usually have this experience on a walk in nature. Just seeing the mountainsides or the the way the water bubbles over rocky slides makes me feel a part of something greater than me. Makes me take notice and be joyful for no other reason than I get to experience whatever it is right there in front of me. As I stand surrounded by lush woods, reeking of decay and the auspicious scent of new growth.
There have also been times that I have been privileged enough to share this experience with someone I love. My dog. My kids. A lover. A friend. And I will tell you that the sharing of the joy of living with another living, sentient being increases the feeling and experience one hundred fold.
And that feels like a secret to the finding the joy in living...the sharing of yourself, your thoughts, your dreams, your heart, your mind, and also your body, with someone else. Sharing is the exponent on the joy to be found in living this life, this one right here.
It has been a while since I have had the pleasure. I mean, I know that my dog and I experience this joy daily when we walk the meadow together. But it has been awhile since I had an intimacy with another that I took into the woods and shared myself and the attendant joy I feel at being alive and present for all this life I have the privilege to enjoy.
And so I think I write this today to remind myself that there is joy in living. I have kind of been down as of late. Tired. Sick. Too much work. Not enough self care. And I have missed the point of living this life. It is to enjoy this life of mine. And if it is out of whack, take the action I need to put it back in whack. It isn’t hard, it usually just means I have to get out of my own way.
But I know, I really know that I am privileged to be here. And that every day I wake up, is another day I get to enjoy this life and all its offerings. And even as I write this I know that there is a barrier today to me actually feeling it. I am not sure there is something wrong, I just know that my ability to experience the joy of living is fleeting and not something I can just make happen. It wells up inside of me and spills out in a gush but I am not in control of when I feel it or when it lands deep within my chest and flourishes.
And even as I write that, I know that without my willingness to set aside all the things that distract and delay and diminish joy’s arrival, my opportunities to experience the joy of this life, will always be curtailed and perhaps extinguished. I have the awesome responsibility of showing up for my life, and doing what I need to do to shake out the cobwebs and remember that there is no point in being here if I am not willing to enjoy the hell out of it.
And while all my days cannot be consumed with life altering joy, they can be filled with the grace of practice, the experience of daily gratitude. I get to set the stage for the experience to come more frequently rather than less. That I create conditions in my life suitable for growth and change and love and joy, only works to hasten joy’s arrival and to sweep me off my feet that trudge forward...and when this joy of living arrives, allows me to be freed from the daily grind of living and accessed this most amazing joy of living. Right here. Right now.
Photo by Goncarlo Claro