Note: I am blogging now, and not doing the dishes, because some many-legged insect is lurking underneath my dishwasher and I am not quite that fearless. Perhaps through writing I will find the courage to get the hose attachment on the vacuum to suck it up and away from me. But then I’m left with the image of it clawing its way out of the vacuum …
Anyway. I’ve been thinking some about a conversation I had with my former boss when I met her for lunch last week. She told me that she was seeing a marked difference in my appearance now compared to how I looked my whole last year at work, and I agreed with her, saying that I am happier now than I have been in a very, very long time, if not happier than I’ve ever been, period.
It’s not because I have everything I want, because I definitely don’t have everything I want. But if I keep on waiting and waiting for something I can never have, I’m never going to feel free to experience real joy in my life. And right now, the pieces are coming together to allow me to do that in spite of the longing that is not joy.
I have spent over two years now immersed in the pursuit of happiness. Chasing after it, studying it, practicing how to be happy. I don’t have an end point in mind, because the practice of happiness is both lifelong and also just that: a practice. Like yoga it’s something that stretches and challenges me in new ways — in ways I don’t expect.
Happiness, hope, health and healing are all well and good but I can’t ignore what it is I’m trying to heal from. And really, I have to ask whether healing is even possible. One of my closest friends lost her mom a few years ago and she described her first year of grief as feeling like there was a dark cloud cover over the world. For me, it feels like there’s a huge hole in my heart. Like there is just a gaping hole there in my chest that bleeds all over the place from time to time. It’s been nearly a year and I’m used to having a gaping hole in my heart now — oftentimes I can actually feel it — but it doesn’t always mean the pain of it has gotten any easier. No matter how much I fill my life with happy things and try to focus myself on joy — no matter how much I run, how much yoga I do, no matter how hard I try – it won’t close the hole. Nothing can.
There is just a great longing that will never be satisfied. My challenge is to somehow find happiness and joy despite that longing — not to try to override it. I am learning how to live with the longing, but it’s hard.
I wrote that about two and a half months ago. Everything feels different now. Why?
I really don’t know. Have I finally accepted that longing as part of me? I had a dream the other night that was a variation on a dream I’ve had many times in the last year. I dreamed my mom was back with us, just living life with us. There was no shock of recognition, no tsunami of joy upon our reunion (both of which I’ve experienced in other dreams) — just life. And as always, during the dream I had a moment of clarity: Wait. She’s gone. And then another moment of clarity: No. She WAS gone. She’s back now. It was only temporary. That’s all over now.
It’s like seeing a foretaste of Heaven, or Revelation 21:4 brought to life: the old order of things has passed away.
The Resurrection Body
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:35-57
I guess it just turns out that joy, as I’m experiencing it in my life right now, is a lot richer than I ever anticipated. It’s not just the peaceful happiness of waking up with my baby every morning and watching him grow and learn. It’s not just the way I feel like motherhood opened a door in my spirit that I didn’t know was there. It’s not the simplicity of my life right now, the freedom I feel while running or the peace I feel in yoga, or the relationships I’m building and nurturing. It’s not just those things. It’s this, too:
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
The longing is actually a part of the joy, as C.S. Lewis once said. And I wouldn’t feel the sort of joy I feel now if I had never known the grief. I wouldn’t be laughing now if I had never wept. I have been hungry — and now, I feel satisfied.