Unshackle The Joy

Mantra Part I – Hold Fast
Mantra Part II- Slow Yourself Down

There is great joy in children. You can see it when they catch snowflakes on their tongues or jump in mud puddles. For a child, joy is found in the everyday but as we grow we begin to push it down. Instead of looking for it in the everyday we begin to think joy comes from what we are, what we do, or what we have. We search for it in the bottom of a bottle or other unhealthy ways, all the while shoving it deeper into the recess of our souls where it becomes shackled to the darkness. I have done all of these things and more. I have focused on what was not rather than on what is, leaving me nothing more than a vessel filled with poison and self-loathing. Becoming a dad shone a glaring light on how shackled my joy had become, and as the boys have grown that light has only become brighter.  

I thought that good manners and a stern word was what was important in parenting. These, I surmised, would be what be the lessons my dad would certainly be passing along to me if he were still alive. I was wrong. And in being wrong I missed the most important lesson that he had taught me all my life. The lesson of joy. Dad was one of the few who did not shackle his joy as he grew older.  Despite his trials or perhaps because of them, despite the insecurity and worry, Dad was quick to be grateful, and circumstances did not diminish his joy, which he passed along with his laugher and his wonderful hugs.  For the first ten years of parenthood, I missed this lesson.  Instead, I held fast to all the wrong things and allowed myself to be directed by my moods and circumstances. Worst of all, I’d forgotten how important it was to hug. 

Joy was the hardest tenet for me to reach even though it was shackled inside of me.  Maybe it took me so long because of my depression or maybe it was because I was afraid to let the authentic me out. I had, after all, grown so comfortable in putting on different masks to suit my emotions, even though putting on those different masks was a driver of my self-loathing.  Whatever the reason, I now know that joy does not depend on circumstances but rather, as the The Book Of Joy points out, “Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens; it is simply the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment.”

All the wealth, social status, and material possessions in the world will not make you joyful. It is something you must find inside yourself in the gratitude of the everyday, no matter what that day brings. For me, I needed to hold fast to the Lord then slow myself down before I could find joy. Maybe for you, it will be the other way around. However you go about it, all it takes is small movements in your daily life to arrive at a monumental shift. I know this because I am slowly walking the path where hope and gratitude converge, and this has allowed me to unshackle the joy I have ignored for so long.