Now I feel the joy.
When I came home from California two weeks ago, after nearly a month helping my ailing father, I thought I would feel joy the moment I walked into my house. I would have my dog Annie, my work, my friends, my house, my piano, my WiFi, and my beautiful Oregon. But all I felt was sad, sad for being so far from my father, sad at being alone, sad that my husband and so many other loved ones are gone, sad at all the bills and work that waited for me in this cold, wet place where the sky was always gray.
It didn’t help that it was raining and the roof in my kitchen leaked. Or that the warning light came on my car and I found that all four tires were dangerously low. Or that the dog was scratching with fleas again. I was still not completely over the food poisoning that struck me in San Jose. I did not feel any joy.
But over the last couple days, I have felt the joy. Maybe I’m just sun-drunk. The rain has stopped for the moment, replaced by dry cold. The pellet stove being my main source of heat, I’m using pellets by the truckload. I’m also giving my sweater collection a workout, but the place where I live in a forest two blocks east of the ocean is so beautiful I can barely stand it. Just now, at 6:30 a.m., I went out with Annie. Stars filled the sky, and the moon was so bright I could see my shadow on the ground. Yesterday, I lay out on the lawn in the sun with Annie, watching a tiny pine siskin in the Sitka spruce above me. The sky was so blue, the trees so green, and the quiet so profound that I fell in love with this place all over again. The day before, Annie and I walked on the beach. We were the only ones there. The ocean was a swirl of blue and green, the sand full of shells, the air like tonic. Yes, it’s warmer at my dad’s house, and his squirrels are as big as pussycats, but this is my little piece of paradise.
Last night I played the piano and led the choir at the 5:30 Mass, and that felt like heaven, too. I was surrounded by friends, the Christ the King liturgy was beautiful, and I felt so blessed to be able to do the music that I love. I have my writing, my house, my dog, my friends, and so much more. My tires are fixed, friends patched my roof, and my father is doing amazingly well for a 91-year-old man with three faulty heart valves.
Now I feel the joy. It’s going to rain again. The sun and the moon will disappear behind the clouds. I’ll worry about bills, Christmas presents, Annie’s fleas, and other problems. My writing will be rejected, my music will go flat, and I’ll hate my new haircut. My father is scheduled for surgery next week, and I’m going back to California. I believe the surgery will go well, and he’ll live on, but there are no guarantees. Life is never perfect, but I’ll do my best to hang on to the moments when I’ve truly felt the joy.
Do you have times when you feel that true happiness? I’d love to hear about them.