Joy is Our Birthright

There’s a post-it on my bathroom mirror that says, “Remember life can be surprising and delightful.” To be honest, it’s been ages since surprises were anything but terrible. For instance, “Surprise! The water on your street has been shut off!” or “Surprise! You lost your wallet!” I’d kind of forgotten that surprises can be enjoyable and had an experience on Saturday that recalibrated me.

I’d intended to go hiking nearby but because of how my day unfolded, that no longer made sense. Not wanting to be cooped up all day, I chose to walk around my neighborhood instead without a destination or intention in mind. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to see. When I approached a certain intersection, I opened the maps app on my phone and noticed there was a trail nearby. “Great! Maybe I’ll go hiking after all!” What I didn’t expect is the route to the trailhead involved a hidden staircase. That’s right, the staircase was smushed between two houses and if you didn’t know it was there, you might overlook it.

Even now I’m smiling as I think about it because it felt like an adventure ascending those stairs and finding the trailhead, which similar to the staircase, was smack dab at the end of a residential street. Houses, cars, and then boom! Woods. I love that about my neighborhood. The trail itself also surprised me because it was decorated with art pieces. Children and adults alike painted wooden planks with smiley faces, decorated mailboxes, and constructed fairy houses. Not only that, dangling from certain tree branches were swings! In the middle of the woods! I truly was not expecting that although I know it happens.

painted mailbox

A smidge of what I saw on Saturday. Photo by me!

My good mood started to radiate out and inspired me to chat with people I saw on the trail, especially if I passed them twice. “We meet again,” I said to one of them. “Your dog is beautiful,” I told another. The trail wended through redwoods and along a creek. The creek sluiced through concrete tunnels, which were yes, covered with graffiti, but also art. Someone painted two dolphins arcing on either side of a tunnel. Others spray-painted hearts everywhere, which you may or may not know is my thing. In short, hiking the trail was exactly the sort of experience that reminded me life can be fun, that it’s not all drudgery.

I mention that because it’s VERY easy for me to focus on how hard things are, the problems I’m facing, and forget the good stuff. I forget about or overlook the fun stuff, the stuff that makes me happy to be alive. But that joy is the undercurrent of our world. I’ve used this quote before but the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, say, “This quinquelemental world has been born out of joy, is being maintained in joy, and into sacred joy will melt.” We come from joy, live in joy, and return to joy. Joy is within us, which David Whyte reminds us of in a line from his poem that says:

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

For some of us, that great shout of joy takes longer to be expressed. Sometimes the joy is silent for months or even years, but it still exists all the same. Maybe like I wrote about in April with regards to mood, we just have to wait and that joy will return.

I dream of a world where we all experience more joy. A world where we remember joy can arrive in the form of an unexpected sculpture or a flower bursting from the soil. A world where we remember if we’re going through a hard time, joy will find us once again because joy is our birthright.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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