Choosing Joy – On Retreat – 1/13/07

Can we choose joy? I believe we not only have to want it, but must also expect it, and deem ourselves worthy of joy. And I often think to myself, there are moments that have been complete joy.

When my stepdaughter gives me a hug and I am the adult, I should have been reaching out to her. But there is joy in that she chose to hug me, not because it was what she had always done. When my middle stepdaughter opens a letter from the foreign exchange program and asks, did you have this sent to me? When I hand my oldest stepdaughter an article about a female improve trio appearing at the playhouse proving that she too can feel joy when someone else recognizes her hopes and dreams and doesn’t call her dreams silly or a waste of her talents. When during Davis’ basketball game, his stepsisters and visiting cousins, all girls, start a cheer for him when he comes in off the bench – D-A-V-I-S and he rises to the occasion fouling the biggest kid on the other team only to turnaround on the next play and toss in a layup..

And on Christmas day, when my new husband, who swore he didn’t know what to buy for me, really believed me and bought me a dartboard, because, well, I wanted a dart board. He was under the impression I was an expert dart thrower, but I confessed that I really just wanted to throw darts because its a lot like life. No matter the supposed target, I am always off, but I always land exactly where I aimed.

There is joy inside of me today. Perhaps it is this joy that has made it difficult to write about what been referred to as the bigger stuff. But this was also a break, a time to welcome joy into my life and remember that I wrote the big stuff, I told the truth, I wrote the ugly words about death and cancer and beautiful words about Oregon and my son and the poignant ones about love that was lost and the love reclaimed.

I skipped a leadership meeting last night, where many women were discerning their next move with their practice. I wondered later if I would regret this move. But I believe I already know my calling at least in this moment. There is no greater proof than this: My two stepdaughters have both been participants in the young women’s classes. The youngest wrote a lot of rhymes, but always about her mother. She writes likes she is on a deserted island with nothing else to do. The middle one had shared many stories of her mother’s death in her writing and she will again someday consider the leadership academy. The oldest asked me to read/help edit all six of her college essays and writing prompts. She wants to start her own laugh Olympics sketch comedy event because she found healing in laughter and knew others would as well. And even Davis, who finds healing in his art because he cant sit long enough to look up how to spell a word, says the only reason he can’t attend summer writing camp is because our community is called Women writing for a change, not women and boys. But he will be here someday too. And just recently, Mark and I co-wrote our first piece together for a newsletter for Cancer Family Care, We wrote about things we would have done differently during the final days and months with our respective deceased spouses concluding no doctor or human will ever be equipped to know when to stop the clock stop, but if we continue to share our experiences, other may have the opportunity to be more forthright in their decisions about their loved ones.

My intentions this weekend were many pronged including hesitancy in writing more in the second phase of about me, per my former pastors previous remarks. But, on my drive down here, I found myself chuckling about the story mark and I said we would write one day, about blending families and how hard it is to have sex in a household such as ours, with kids up at all hours and neighbors always peeking in or calling. When I woke Saturday morning, I wrote four pages on this particular theme.

And in my new year’s resolution, with so much agony in our world, with war, poverty and sickness, with our family reeling from a sister who drinks too much and can not possibly see joy in her life right now, with drugs and guns and the killing of little children, I said I would choose the light each day. That I would lead in this way, and that I may not always write about light and joy, but I would live a life of light, to constantly seek and reflect the joy that is in each one of us.

So as I write this, I see now that within the context of our family’s fusion I have created my own writing circle and developed a practicum that may not always be practical or applicable to the outside world. We don’t always light the candle or open the circle with poem, but we have created a safe space for the children and for ourselves, when they are hurting, when we are hurting. We have allowed for plenty of light in lives that could have been overshadowed by anger and grief. We have no plans now or in the future to add new members to our brood, but we are giving birth to joy.

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