Friday, July 11, 2014

What's in a Name?

When I decided I was really going to do this thing, I was really going to start writing a blog, I knew I needed a name.  It needed to reflect who I am and what people might find in this space.

So I made a list.

[Actually, that’s how I tackle lots of things.  I make lists, I research, I cry, I talk my husband’s ear off.  (He prefers my list making.)]

And when I had a list of a couple dozen words I liked, I realized I kept coming back to just a few of them, including “muddle” and “joy.”

I used to think of joy as an emotion akin to happiness, maybe just a bit more so.  But I was intrigued to read about how C. S. Lewis defines “joy,” sometimes referring to it as a longing.  In Surprised by Joy, he says, “[I]t is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

I remember the first time I recognized this feeling of joy.  I was sitting in the window seat of my previous home, looking into the front yard, onto our beautiful dogwood in full bloom.  A precious longing swelled inside of me, bringing both a tiny smile to my lips and tears to my eyes.  Joy.  It’s what I feel when I’m on vacation, reading a good book, with the ocean breeze on my face, as I hear the boys giggle in the distance while tromping through the woods.  I feel it each winter when the enormous, neighborhood sycamore tree drops its leaves, and I can see the white branches twist toward the impossibly blue sky.  It overcomes me when I catch my boys snuggled up with my husband.  Joy.  It is my favorite emotion, the one that makes me feel the most connected to God and the Universe, even more so than Love.

But being an perfectly imperfect human means that I mess up Joy often, and so my life is often better described by the word “muddle.”  It’s what I do when I need to get to the grocery store so I can bring the kindergarten snack tomorrow, but my oldest just vomited and my husband is traveling for work.  It’s how I managed an oldest who wanted to play a game, a middle son who wanted to be read a book, and a baby who needed to be nursed… at the same time.  It’s what I did when I found out weeks before moving out of state so my husband could begin graduate school that the job I accepted months before no longer existed.  One step at a time, one minute at a time.  There may be tears and sharp words – they may not be my most elegant moments -- but somehow I always muddle through.

But I try to remember as best I can, amidst the muddling, to keep my eyes open for those fleeting moments of Joy.

This is my muddled, joyful life.

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