to experience with joy; to take pleasure in

For someone whose brain rarely shuts up, I have a tough time with mindfulness.  The concept of being present, of taking in each thing as it comes instead of constantly planning and worrying, makes plenty of sense when I look at it objectively.  Executing the practice, on the other hand…

Sometimes it seems as though there’s too much space in my mind devoted to doubts, worries, rants, complaints, and failures.  My memories love to dredge up classic reruns of my most embarrassing moments, so much so that I’ll be squirming in my seat at the thought of something that happened years ago.  I may not be the best at this “adult” thing, but I feel like blurting out something awkward in 5th grade shouldn’t still bother me so much.  (Then again, if any of you have found a way to truly get over your middle school embarrassments, for the love of all that is good in this world, TELL ME YOUR WAYS.)

Some people call this “negative self-talk.”  These same people tell me of something called “self-compassion,” which is, again, a concept that sounds grand but is tricky to implement.  My thoughts have worn ruts of worry in my synapses.  I don’t have the time, it seems, to stop and breathe.

That’s why I’ve been thinking about the word “enjoy” lately.  It caught me while I was rereading Madeleine L’Engle’s excellent memoir A Circle of Quiet, where she spends several early chapters discussing the concept of joy.  She talks about existing, about resting, in that joy she feels in a simple moment – and she talks, too, about how rare it is for her to quiet herself enough to do that.  It comforts me that I am not the only one who has difficulty simply being.

The word “enjoy” originally came from Middle English for “to make joyful,” or Old French for “to give joy to.”  Joy, it seems to me, is a much more serious business than mere contentment or happiness.  “Happy” has something of a giddiness to it.  “Joy” has weight.  It leaves an imprint.  But that mark, that gentle, comforting weight like a hand on our shoulder, only comes when we let ourselves “enjoy,” when we let ourselves exist in the moment.  In joy.

So I’ve been trying to pay attention to the joyful moments, to the little things that allow me to exist “in joy” for a second or two, and to rest, rather than squirm, in the unusual quiet of my brain.

I started off easy – it’s all too natural for me to enjoy the first sip of coffee in the morning, or a well-written sentence that makes me close the book and stare off into space for a moment to absorb the craft of the words, or a monarch butterfly flashing across my path, or a fuzzy puppy rolling over and begging to be petted.

But it’s other things too.  It’s realizing that it doesn’t bother me to eat lunch alone in a strange town because I know I’m here for an internship that provides me with work I truly love doing.  It’s one-word texts from the Engineer.  It’s establishing witty rapport almost immediately with my new coworkers.  And it’s stepping outside the trailer in the evening and letting comfort seep down from a starry dome, even though it’s cold, even though I should go to sleep, because it feels good just to be – just to exist in joy.

Now I’m curious – what do you enjoy?

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