A place to find joy

The Question: At the age you are today, do you have a go-to place to find joy? And if so, what is it, and how often do you have the chance to feel that joy? If not, what’s in the way?
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Me and my shadow – Happiness and sorrow.

My mama made me my favorite cherry cake for my eighth birthday, but when the gift I received was a Baby-Wetsy doll, instead of the Fanner-50 cowboy gun and holster set I had set my heart on, I was stricken.

Silly tomboy. The cowboy life is not for you.

To salve my broken pride, I read horse stories by Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley. The world of reading gave me freedom to dream when the realities of my life did not.

I joined the army and learned to drive, and ran two miles a day with joy and vigor. I rappelled down a cliff, learned to scuba dive.

I fell in love, skydiving into exhilarating joy only to be brought up short, black and blue on the rocks. I picked myself up with a baby to care for. Bundle of joy was an understatement.

But at the same time, the seriousness of my responsibility was a burden I was privileged to bear. I was no longer a tomboy, no longer a girl, but a woman with a depth of love to share.

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I find joy in spending time with my six year old son. I get kisses and hugs everyday but rarely have time to spend with him because of my work as a teacher. I am a bit embarrassed with my schmaltzy simplistic answer, but truthfully I have been searching for something that will bring me true happiness and joy all my life.

I used to think it was one big destination at the end of a journey but now wonder if it is actually small moments along the way. Logically, I also think it shouldn’t  be dependent on another person as that can easily go away. So I’m not sure where to go to find joy right now, but I know spending time with my son feels pretty good.

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I can’t answer a question towards joy. There is no joy here right now except for this, the image I’ll share after a long day of two beings, being… just being there, there on the couch. Tired but relying, objecting but accepting that comfort is found, found between two souls bound in comfort of just being there together.


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Perhaps I am a little odd. I find joy in the same places and circumstances I did as a child. With horses and cattle, with cats or dogs, with birds or reptiles. In paddocks and parks, in the bush or at home. These things bring me joy and a feeling of peace. For me, I think the two are closely weaved together.

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There are a lot of places that I go to find joy. Sometimes they are places within myself and sometimes they are places where I rely on others.

Lately I have been travelling a lot and coming home to my wife and our life with our home and animals gives me an inner joy and contentment. Coming home is going to a place I know I belong with the one person in the world I belong with. There is nothing like feeling you are where you are suppose to be.

In adulthood I discovered the happiness of thinking. Sometimes it is thinking over a real-life problem and other times it is thinking through a theoretical problem. I like working through a theoretical maze best. Having an intellectual argument with myself about what would happen if we used thorium as a substitute for uranium or the statistical probability of extra-terrestrial life or the paradox of uniqueness, gets my juices flowing.

If someone were to ask me what has consistently taken me to the happiest places throughout my life, I would have to say music. My mother took me to a jazz concert when I was twelve years old (Errol Garner) and I have never recovered. There are so many ways jazz has affected my life for the better. I am sometimes asked what is my all-time favourite recording and the answer has never changed, Paul Bley playing My Old Flame. It cracks open my heart every time, even after forty years and hundreds of listenings.

There are many other aspects of my life I get to enjoy regularly such as riding my horses, helping a troubled horse feel better, sipping a smooth scotch, watching my wife when she thinks I am not looking, playing with the dogs, watching an old Fred Astaire film and too many other things to list.

I have a very fortunate life.

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Where do I go to in order to find joy? Probably my shed. My hobby (now that I am unable to play sport due to injuries) is restoring cars. I was originally a mechanic. Cars make sense to me. They have been designed to fulfil a purpose. They don’t have political opinions and they can be repaired without argument. I also spend a bit of time in my garden (house is on an acre) and sometimes go out and about and take some photos. All these activities are good because they don’t involve arguments or having to deal with difficult people.

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My yoga teacher says, “Choose joy.” There was a time in my life when I thought it wasn’t so simple to choose it in the face of other emotions. And some days, we can look for joy every dang minute, try to carve it out, create it, and it remains elusive. I do like her idea, though: that we have something to do with the way we feel.

I derive lots of joy from the people I love, especially my daughters. But no one can be a joy magnet for anyone else, since they have their own moods and shifts. My dog Roxy works really well in this regard: she is always up for a laugh, a treat, a romp, a snuggle, a chase. I got her after I finished my cancer treatment, when I was forty-one, because I realized “getting a dog” topped my bucket list and the time had arrived to do my bucket list. Hence, Roxy.

Other than Roxy and other humans, things that bring me the most joy are yoga, singing, reading/writing and being in nature. I try to store those joyful moments away to remember during the more difficult or mundane ones. Sometimes that strategy works well, and sometimes not as well.

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I don’t feel I have much joy in my life lately with the exception that I know I am loved, and that is a wonderful thing. But I am frightened for my country, and I am frightened for the nations who have been critical of a potential Donald Trump presidency, because when there is a precedent for hate, others will follow. And I am struggling. Professionally I am drowning without time for myself, and I am anxious that time seems to pass so swiftly and I am losing touch with myself.

So I think that’s what is in the way. I am thinking a lot lately about my next step in life, and if I should take some risks. However, no matter what happens in my day, or in my head, every single night when I come home, my little Chihuahua runs out to greet me. He is nearly electric in his happiness, and I start talking to him in a dopey, made-up language, and spins and romps with delight. His elation quells all the things that haunt me for that moment. Though we have three other dogs, and one whom I love very much because we’ve been together for almost 17 years, this tiny, solid little dog who seems to think I am the brightest star in his world gives me daily joy.

NEXT WEEK’S QUESTION: Has the recent US presidential election affected you? If so, how, and if not, why?

Posted by MMJ

  1. Joy for me comes from writing a good story about a really important subject-usually this means exposing an environmental problem or human rights issue (feminism, racism), or sharing the journey of an environmental change maker. I find tremendous joy in being with my daughter, who is making her way in the world as a first-year college student. She makes me smile. I find great joy in walking in nature and watching things grow and change colors. I find joy in watching my students light up when they learn about the subjects I teach, and when they, too, become change makers. I find joy in playing with my mischievous puppy and in reading well-written literature.


  2. I find joy in many places. In my work, writing, and in painting and having sex, in gardening when the weather is warm, and walking and hiking, and deepening my tai chi practice.

    But really, the number one place is with my granddaughter, age nearly-5, who has been a major flame of joy in my world since the moment she roared into it. She’s eccentric and funny and completely herself, and I love every tiny thing about her. This is a massive surprise to me–I never dreamed I could fall so much in love with a person. I love my children fiercely, but it was much more fraught, tangled in expectations of both them and myself. With this girl, we are both free to be entirely ourselves.


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