My metaphor for my old habit of making excitement a necessary component of life is the water bugs I saw skittering on the surface of the creek I used to play in as a girl. (For my more nerdy readers, here is a link for the explanation of how they manage this.)
I used excitement to give me a sort of high, the adrenaline-rush through my veins and muscles and emotions making me think I was experiencing joy. I used the anticipation of excitement or some happy event (I can get through this day if I just think about going to that party on Saturday) to deny that day's emotional pain or discomfort. At the anticipated or 'joy'-producing event, I'd skitter around, adrenaline holding me aloft like water's surface tension does a waterbug's hairy little feet, acting like the adrenaline rush and forced happiness were joy.
I thought they were.
But true joy cannot happen on the surface. True joy is below, where calm reigns and the current is slow, where emotions are free to plumb the depths despite the wind and waves and turmoil above.
Isn't that why Jesus talks about "the peace of God that passes all understanding"? (Phil 4:7). And why Darlene Cohen at Shambhala Sun says "we can experience joy in life by opening up fully to our experience"? The Etz Chaim Center says that joyful living is about forging a deeper connection to the soul and creating an on-going opportunity to share our joy with others." (italics mine) On the blog Baha'i Thought, Phillipe Copeland writes that "happiness and joy are more than just ephemeral emotions ... they spring organically from the soul's response to the Word of God."
One final quote, and I'll pursue the topic further in future posts. This is my favorite from Khalil Gibran:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was
oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
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