Gratitude and Joy: Compare and Contrast

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Gratitude and Joy:  Compare and Contrast

Gratitude – who in this life could not, should not, be grateful – even in the horrendous political climate we are enduring. The suggestions, admonitions, about gratitude, about keeping a gratitude journal, about simplicity, well, who would not agree with them? So much to be grateful for – and I honestly do spend most of my hours in a state of gratitude – for (some of) my family, my friends, my health, for having “enough,” and most of all, for the freedom of my days.

Freedom – to do what I want, when I want, to set my own schedule and be responsible for following or not following it. It has been years since I left the world of paid employment – and there has not been a day since when I have not breathed a deep sigh and paean of “thank you, universe, for this sovereignty.” It was not until I experienced it that I realized how fettered I had been for way-too-many years. It was a bondage that I had freely accepted, indeed, had sought out and believed was what I wanted, a way to prove myself, mainly to myself.

And then the veil was lifted, the clouds parted, and I found this life – late, but not too late. Gratitude, you bet. And a sense of enough – enough money, enough time, and (almost) enough love. Gratitude – absolutely.

Which brings me to joy, a quality that had not been my strong suit.

Ah, joy – to experience that unrestrained, free, soaring spell (for to me it is a spell – a good one) if only we open ourselves to it. Joy in its purest form, without the Puritan/Catholic/Jewish shackles of “you’d better be grateful for this and if you’re not, you’ll pay the price.” Just plain joy, without gratitude.

Whoa…. surely some severe consequence will befall me – this sunrise, can I just experience it, let it touch my heart, without a voice inside, sometimes quiet, sometimes more insistent, that declares – “this is a gift, be grateful, remember this for your entry to your gratitude journal”?

I know that joy is a gift, which I exuberantly receive with no chains or laces. And the more I open my eyes to it, the more it seems to appear. And do I ever love that no-strings-attached thing-y.

The universe conspired to send me back to an old friend, Abigail DeWitt, a wondrous writer and teacher who has been a muse and inspiration to me for several years. It is she, via her Write to Heal course, who opened my eyes and heart to joy. Even more thanks to you, Abigail.

I’ll end with a joyous commercial for her – learn about her and her programs on her website: abigaildewitt.com. You may wind up entering that into your gratitude journal….

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

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On Snow Days…

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On Snow Days…

Today I am indulging myself, at the risk of overwhelming readers with yet another musing on snow.

For more years than I want to remember, I worked in positions where it was crucial to be present when it snowed. My presence was what was necessary, not so much that I actually accomplish anything. Rather, it was to give moral support to those whose hands and backs did the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively), hoping to communicate without words that we were all in this together.

But now, a snow day means a day at home, a day where requirements, where appointments, commitments are postponed and rescheduled. A free day, where I am warm, indoors, with soup simmering on the stove, is a special treat.

When I lived in Chicago, life went on – snow, below zero wind-chills, hardy Mid-Westerners wrapped scarves around necks, faces and carried on. Pioneers with that resilient spirit. I became one of them and felt quite self-righteous.

When I first moved to North Carolina, I mocked these soft Southerners, those who, at the first suspicion of inclement weather ran to the store for milk, bread and toilet paper. Where was their can-do spirit, I wondered?

Then I realized – who’s stupid? Who wouldn’t relish a day off, a special holiday, a gift from the snow queen? And I got it – again, I became one of “them.” Yes, one of those who, upon the merest possibility of snow immediately went to my calendar to cancel commitments, ears focused on the weather channel, sharp for precipitation forecasts.

This morning, as I sat by the fire, I felt the stillness, background sounds muted by snowfall. Silence, and that somber, pensive mood that comes with it.

A Facebook friend, author Tommy Hays, posted an excerpt from James Joyce, the poetic ending to his amazing work, The Dead:

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried … His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and dead.”

And I sit in my warm house before the fire, electricity intact, grateful, thankful for my luck and undeserved blessings, and hoping for the same for each of us.