The only way I will seek joy in the midst of life’s tumultuous tragedies is if seeking it has become second nature to me when the seas are calm.
“Make your life enjoyable.” Out of all the words spoken at my son’s commencement speeches, these are the ones that stuck. I wanted to stop it all for a minute in hopes that those words would soak into the hearts of the graduates a little deeper than all the noise about success and grit and the like.
The smart and wise young speaker, Jordan Griffin, alluded to finding this enjoyment in relationships, work, learning, & play. When he got to that specific line, the J-O-Y in the middle of that word jumped out. It occurred to me that this is our difficult calling — to enjoy this life in its moment-by-moment entirety. Finding JOY is a choice.
“Enjoy” is derived from the Latin word “occupo” — the same root that gives us grasp, seize, take hold of. Enjoyment when seen through this lens is far from the passive, just-happens-to-us, stumbled-upon thing we make of it. It is something we choose and seek and start, something we can lose, something we must find again.
How do I do this in the repetitive circumstances of my ordinary days? Do I cherish the meal that was shared and hope to share another one tomorrow as I rinse the dinner dishes? Do I contemplate the new birdsong I heard on my walk as I fold the socks that I wore on the path? Can I notice the multiple shades of green in the grass I mow, or rest in the occasional pauses, appreciating the quiet and comfort held in my breath?
For if I can habitually find enjoyment in these cyclical and routine happenings, find meaning in what I am tempted to call tiresome or mundane, how much easier would it be to treasure the moments of lying close to my husband, of laughing with my kids, petting my dogs, filling my bird feeder while the cardinals chirp their thanks above my head, or chatting with the marvelously singular people in line with me at the grocery? Maybe I will marvel at the unique hazel sparkle of my daughter’s eyes when I wipe her tears, or dream of what her passion might accomplish when she slams the door in my face.
Enjoyment is not forced on us, or handed to us. It does not scream out from the kitchen broom or computer keyboard. It does not separate itself from the pain of loss or the shame of mistakes, but it there all the same. It is waiting to be sought, pried out, noticed, and accepted. It is under my fingertips as I type these words — it is the sensuous feel of tapping lightly on my thoughtfully designed Mac keyboard; it is the surprise at the words that tumble out of my often-wandering and spaced-out brain.
This I know for sure: the only way I will seek joy in the midst of life’s tumultuous tragedies is if seeking it has become second nature to me when the seas are calm.
I make my life enjoyable by fully occupying the space and the time I am in right now, by fully occupying and appreciating the body that holds me there, and by connecting as deeply and kindly as possible with the lives I intersect. Awake, my soul, and enjoy!