“JOY IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF SADNESS”-MY PASTOR
Joy is finding peace during the most turbulent times in your life. Joy is learning to smile so much through your pain that you convince yourself you are happy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion so don’t be frustrated with yourself if you don’t have some invisible joy juice that everyone else seems to have a lifetime supply of.
This is the time of year where you get holiday cards. You get pictures of former co-workers’ children. You see empty boxes on the curb from lavish gifts. You get solicitations to join bourgeois gyms so you can fulfil your new years resolutions. Does envy creep in? Does it block your joy?
One year I got an email from a former close friend. I hadn’t spoken to her in over 5 years. She apologized for a falling out we had. She proceeded to tell me she was married but going through a divorce. She said she would find used condoms in her husband’s car. She said he was so physically abusive that she had been hospitalized multiple times. She lost custody of her daughter from a previous relationship. Her ex was now happily married raising their daughter in a beautiful apartment in the Bronx. She was discharged from the military. She hadn’t heard from her biological mother in years. Her step mother wrote her off and was also divorcing her father. She was alone. She was dissatisfied. The correspondence she sent was long. She told me about failed relationships she’d had and how she begrudgingly began to resent me because my life was “so great .” She remembered Christmas mornings seeing me open a multitude of gifts. She hated getting hand me downs from me. She hated tagging along on my family vacations. I always thought she appreciated my acts of kindness but she resented them.
I was so astounded to receive that email. It had been so long. There were things I’d heard through the grapevine. There were things I never knew. I could have responded with an equally lengthy email but I didn’t see the point. The purpose of her email was to use her dysfunctions as an excuse for her deplorable behavior. I don’t think that’s fair. I got a multitude of gifts on Christmas because my family was compensating. First I was the only child then my sibling was sickly and finally she perished. She passed on the Fourth of July. If that wasn’t enough, she was in the backseat of the car with me when she died. So while this old friend was jealous of my Barbie condominium with the elevator, I longed for siblings to play with. I longed for my sister and her exuberant smile.
I went to a private university but I took out loans to do it. I only received a $2000 scholarship. She had better grades. She was more disciplined. She could have gone anywhere she wanted but she conceived her daughter on prom night. She decided she couldn’t juggle parenting and studying. She quit and she followed one man after another.
We cannot blame others for our lack of joy. We cannot use our handicaps as excuses for our hangups. Dysfunction is true normalcy. Its just that it takes a lot of courage to be honest about your hurt. There’s victory in vulnerability.
This was a rough year for me. I’ve been through way too much to type. I’ll tell you what though! Next year will be better. I love getting pictures of my friends families. I love seeing others unwrap their hearts’ desires. I pray diligently. This holiday, I watched reruns of “Martin” with my 6 month old. I cleaned her up and dressed her in warm pajamas. I told her about Santa and Jesus and rocked her to sleep. I sang Mariah Carey’s version of “All I Want for Christmas” and I wrapped a few gifts.
The lights flickered on the artificial tree and I think I felt it pass through me…I felt joy.
Merry Christmas ♡