Joy of Life

“The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes led to extraordinary success.” 

- Vauvenargues, was a French writer.

I just finished reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. A long title for a great book that reminded me what I’d learned from my dad; that life’s an adventure, the good and the bad. Feel it all. If you don’t, the colors fade and life’s a chore, or worse hell. I’d rather embrace life to the fullest. So, I’ll go out on a limb and tell you about a crazy thing I did.

Five years ago, I retired from my secure teaching job to become a writer. I’d only been teaching for ten years, so my annuity isn’t very large. I know some of you will think I was really stupid. However, it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a struggle and sometimes down right frightening.

I may have written in an earlier post about my epiphany on my way to school in the spring of 2007. My soul was telling me I was supposed to be a writer and not a public school teacher. I have to say, I love being in the classroom. I love seeing the light bulbs go off as my students gain new understandings. But, I’d been feeling restless for quite some time. I knew my life wasn’t quite what it could be. Then inspiration, or God, or my soul got through and I knew I was going to be a writer.

On the last day of school I was packing up my room. I’d decided to teach one more year. That would make my teaching career an even ten years. As I packed, I was thinking of my writing life ahead. The thought came to me, I could quit right now. I haven’t signed my contract. The moment I thought that, I was filled with the most profound joy. It permeated my entire being. My skin tingled, my heart pumped for joy. I felt as if I could float out of the room. That feeling stayed with me while I loaded the car and on my hour drive home. I couldn’t wait to tell Barry. I sailed through the door confident that he’d be filled with joy too. Boy was I wrong. When I told him about my experience and the possibility of quitting sooner, a look of fear spread over his face and burst my joy bubble. Mine was the larger income. “How will we make up your income.” Logic set in. The joy was gone. I had no answer.

When I walked up to the School District office with my signed contract, my heart was heavy. I knew that feeling well. When I make a decision that goes against what my soul wants, even if it does look crazy, my heart is heavy and my stomach sinks. It’s so different than the elation I’d felt just a few days earlier.

I worked that last year. It was a good year. I learned a lot about living in the present moment. About taking a breath and getting centered. I was also inspired to apply at the local Community College as adjunct instructor, which has turned out to be a great learning experience.

I can’t say that these five years have been easy. Oh, no. We’ve had financial difficulties. I’ve felt clutching fear about money at times. But, We’ve also faced our fears, and asked for and received Divine help in setting financial goals, which are now putting us on a more secure footing. Barry and I have never starved, we still have our house and we’ve learned to trust again. We’re always taken care of, if we allow it. We’ve worked through our fears and for me at least, I’ve learned that I am not the amount of money in my bank account, nor the clothes I wear, the car I drive, or the house I live in. I’m so much more. I’ve also learned there are so many things to appreciate about life. We’re both finding new creative outlets. And I love writing.

As I was finishing Brené Brown’s book, I remembered a silly little incident when I took Barry home to meet my family that illustrates what it’s like to feel joy in life.

It was our Christmas break. Barry and I had become engaged the winter before, but he’d never met my family. We’d had a great time during our visit. On New Year’s eve, we decided to stay home with my parents. Neither one of us are party people, and we didn’t have friends to go out with. So, we stayed home, watched the celebrations on TV, ate popcorn, and played games. As the ball in Time Square descended and the count down commenced, Barry prepared to give me my New Year’s kiss. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. We were startled when dad yelled “Happy New Year,” jumped out of his recliner and hopped to mom’s recliner to give her a kiss. She had the chair reclined and dad leaned too hard on the chair. Mom, dad and the recliner ended up upside down. We were all laughing so hard we couldn’t get mom right again for several minutes. Barry said, “Now I know I’ll fit into this family.” It’s a moment of joy that we told over and over again at family gatherings. It’s one of the stories we shared at the family reunion just after dad’s death.

My dad had Joy of Life and he taught that to me, even though I forgot it for awhile. It’s back now. I’m grateful for so many things, especially my decision to become a writer. I may never be rich and famous, but I’m doing what I love. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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