Joy: let me explain!
Perhaps this has happened to you: when my daughters were very young, I found myself in a game of tug-of-war between all that I loved and longed to do. If I was with the children, I found myself feeling as if I was neglecting my business… while working, I wondered constantly about the children. Cleaning the house, I felt I should be working, and while in the studio I seemed to be allowing the dust to gather and clump at home. I felt as if I stood to fail someone or something no matter where I was.
I could have hung out a sign with the Chinese proverb, “There is chaos under the heavens: the situation is excellent,” and this would have been true. Instead, I hung out a sign over my book arts, gifts and poetry business, which simply said, “Tending Joy.” I wanted this to be the umbrella under which every piece of my life existed- rather than the push-me, pull-you juggling act that it felt it had become. I wanted to lean into the essence of joy at the heart of childhood, marriage, business, home, my life, spirit, and the world.
By hanging out a sign that said, “Tending Joy,” I was hoping to invoke a kind of grace that would hold all things. Joy, for me, was a code-word for the eternal, spiritual dimension of our lives- all of the invisible yet apparent energies like love, compassion, generosity, gratitude- and all the unnameable mysteries like God. I put them all into the container of joy- as both a presence, a practice, and a felt experience. I wanted to give my life in devotion to this- to tune my heart, mind and attention to cultivating and exploring this joy.
We tend our gardens. We tend the fires of the hearth... we tend to each other. To tend means to give attention to or to lean toward... I liked that.
This is what I’ve learned so far: Joy is a kind of grace: a loving relationship with living- with your soul, the world, the world-soul. This is a relationship which can be cultivated and grown- an intimacy with the ins and outs of your life; it’s a conversation, a call and response, a deep and energetic feeling of love and belonging.
I’ve also discovered that many of us have a resistance to joy- although this is actually a resistance to our judgments about joy. In a world of turmoil, we feel we don’t deserve it. And, deeper still, we worry that joy is one more charismatic attribute we need to put on like a costume, or exude like a sexy magnetism- one more game we have to play, or one more table we have to dance on. No wonder we find the idea of joy or joyful living daunting or exhausting, selfish or silly.
But that is not the kind of joy I have given my life in service and devotion to.
The joy I’ve been exploring is so much bigger, wider, and subtler than our more superficial assumptions- quieter even, and more nourishing and sustaining. This joy is a fundamental possession that resides in the heart and longs to be uncovered rather than put on. It is the spaciousness of our unanswered questions, rather than anything we could ever achieve or acquire. It is the joy we experience when we shed our assumptions, our self-images, our prejudices and our pride- it is the joy that is the essence of our being. This joy is felt when we live in, for, and from love. If we have wandered from it, as most of us do many times a day, then joy is felt when we return to our loving center.
I know there is the joy of cooking, the joy of crafting, the joy of creating a beautiful lifestyle…but what I’ve found is that there is also an even greater joy- the joy which surrounds, infuses, and contains all of these things. I created the Tending Joy Blog as a beautiful place to visit and to enjoy the unfolding invitation to discover, each for ourselves, the many ways we may live in love by cultivating intimacy with our lives, our essence, with each other and the world. Thank you so much for joining me here!
In love and friendship, Ingrid Goff-Maidoff