My quest to understand joy led me tonight to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, third college edition, 1998. I started with thrive and got to enough. I like that. I had mentioned thriving in a previous post, and I haven’t done much else with that since then. I think I might be thriving in some areas and not in others. I think I need better soil and better food and better growing conditions in some ways, and in others, I think what I have and how I’m doing is exactly fine.
After thrive, I thought I might as well look up joy and enjoyment, just in case I was missing something. I was missing a nice list of happy words that I will share with you here: “a very glad feeling; happiness; great pleasure; delight; relish.”
Relish! Now there’s a word. I didn’t bother looking that up, because I’m sure it has to do with little savory bits of pickled cucumbers, and, like joy, it is sweet. I may have heard of killjoy, but never dill-joy, and it’s the same with relish.
Pleasure was next, and it was a lot like joy, only toned down a little: a pleased feeling; enjoyment; delight; satisfaction. Then, satisfaction, which, I learned, comes from a Latin word that means, literally, to make enough.
Enough. The word enough has always had two distinct meanings to me, and it turns out these are the two meanings I found in the dictionary. One meaning is “as much or as many as necessary, desirable, or tolerable; sufficient; sufficiency.” And the other meaning is “just adequately; tolerably; fairly.” So one meaning is sufficient and the other is sufficient, but just barely. The word enough comes from a Sanskrit verb (naksati) that means “he attains.” Wow. so, enough really has to do with being there. I have arrived, and it is enough. Once I arrive, I am satisfied, happy, and content. I don’t want anything.
As I have suspected, when I am wanting joy, I am going to come up short. When I am looking for joy, I cannot find it. I can find where it lives, maybe, conditions or circumstances that enable joy to spring up in me, but just like the pictures of kale smoothies and fish tacos (which came out great, by the way), they are only pointers to potential joyful conditions. I cannot replicate joy. It’s not a process with steps that I can do today and get the joy I got yesterday doing those steps.
I can be a place of enough, of satisfaction and contentment with what is now, not what will be if I can only get through this moment to the good moment coming up. I cannot manufacture joy. But I can embrace sufficiency. I can practice contentment. I can learn to take pleasure in where I am and how you are, in whatever is happening now, and not wait for everything to line up. The truth is, I can change the soil, get a bigger container, put myself in a south-facing window, get really good Phyllis-food, and I will not always, every day thrive, be joyful, enjoy, and be content. Even though I do, in fact, have enough.
So, what I learned in school today is that everything’s probably much more ok than I think it is; my mind is my worst enemy and doesn’t know what it is talking about; and sometimes my emotions are from outer space, too. Which leaves me where, exactly? Well, I’ve been doing this thing Louise Haye says changed her life. I’ve been looking in the mirror every day and saying, “I love you.” And you know something? It’s really hard and feels really dumb, and I don’t believe in seeing myself as a separate person from myself. But on the other hand, if it’s so hard to do, then maybe there’s a place of resistance to goodness and love, that, when it breaks open, will let me take pleasure in just being in this very long, very rich, very amazing moment that is my life.