Mental Health Monday – Take a Moment…And Lift

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For the early part of Mother’s Day weekend I went on an overnight retreat. It’s billed as a Girls Night Out/Day of Reflection and it was a wonderful event. They hold this every year and this was the first time I went. The theme is usually dictated by the presenter and so last week was titled Called to Wonder and Joy and the next day’s reflection continued that theme and included active listening and storytelling.

In the discussion and micro-journaling, we answered the question, “What calls you with wonder and joy? What creates wondrous and joyful moments in your life?

In this context, it’s not necessarily that joy equals happy. Joy is a much broader concept. It is only recently that I find that deep profundity that is rooted in joy. For me it was the references to joy in scripture and spiritual learning and practice. The joy that comes to me during mass or meditation. It’s not the happiness of a fun time with friends or a vacation; it is something deeper that I’ve only recognized more recently.

In the things that you like, you will find others that like similar things or extraordinarily different things, but you will discover that you are not alone. You will find things that lift you up. You will remember things that you did that might have been scary, but you got through it. You might even do them again. What are the things that lift you up?

I give all of this to you as a way of introducing a mental health exercise and to remind of the broad nature of words that we take for granted. We may hear the word “joy” and think, ‘oh, that isn’t me – I am not that kind of person,’ but if you broadened your concept you may find, as I gradually did that I can be joyful in ways and I can find joy in things, both physical and spiritual.

So, I ask you: Where do you find Wonder and Joy?

I will share ten of the moments of wonder and/or joy, some I discovered on the retreat and others that have come to me as I write.

What I would like you to do today is to write your own down. Begin with five and go for as many as you’d like. It doesn’t need a formal journal or a notebook. Just grab a sheet of paper or the back of an envelope and a pen.

Nothing should stand in your way.

When you discover and remind yourself of the things you find wondrous and joyful, you can refer back to this list on your down days, take a deep breath, and keep going.

Here are mine (currently):

the lilacs in my backyard

labyrinths

Wales

sitting quietly with a cup of tea

rainbow shoelaces

I get a deep well of peace (but also joy) thinking on the devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots

waterfalls

planning a trip

sitting in my front yard, eyes closed, feeling the cool air, and just being

the smell of freshly cut grass

early morning sunshine when the birds are noisy

Joy

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It’s a little bit funny that joy is the first prompt of this season’s memoir writing free-write. I am in  the middle of reading both James Martin’s book, Between Heaven & Mirth and Pope Francis’ most recent exhortation, The Joy of Love. I swear if he uses the word conjugal one more time, I will throw my Kindle from a window.

Joy is one of those words that I look at as somewhat old-fashioned. I can be happy, fun, excited, well, good, but joy sounds like it means harp-playing angels and arrow-twanging cupids.

There are also certain words that I hear in certain voices and joy is one of them. Whenever I hear the word joy in my head, it is in Mira Furlan’s voice. She is a Czech actress who played the Minbari ambassador in the Babylon 5 television series. There’s nothing particularly special about the way she says it, but it’s been the way I hear that word since her narration of the opening. Without knowing it, she layers it with context, emotion, and meaning. My priest always welcomes new people with “great joy” and the first time he said it I flashed to the sound of Mira’s voice from twenty-five or so years ago.

Despite my current readings, I am neither joyful nor mirthful. I’m subdued, and joy is not subdued. I think joy happens in retrospect; as a memory of something too wonderful for mere words.

Joy is substance, joy is flavor, joy is the smell of rain, and the tweet of the 5am birdies. It’s the glow of the moon on my face or my hand when I reach towards the window in the night. Joy is your sleeping child or running unexpectedly into a friend during errands. Joy is my lilac tree in the yard and the smell of hyacinth.

Where do you find your joy?

Prompt – Joy

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This was supposed to be posted on Friday, but with Prince’s unexpected death and the beginning of Passover, I delayed it until this morning. Future prompts will appear on Fridays.

Now that my writing class has started up again, I’m going to share our prompts with you and hopefully encourage you to do your own free writes. Remember that free writes are ten to fifteen minutes of stream of consciousness writing related to the prompt. I sometimes call it spewing. We all have our words for things.

The class is six weeks, but with homework this prompt exercise should go on for about twelve weeks.

Share your writings by linking them in the comments.

Our theme for these next few weeks is Emotions.

Today’s prompt begins with Joy.

Have fun!

A Barrel of Joy

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I had a ten minute conversation on where I wanted to eat lunch, most of that with myself.   I finally decided on Cracker Barrel. Good food, reasonable prices, good atmosphere for writing. I have my rituals for pretty much every place I go. Cracker Barrel is a glance around the store and a trip to the bathroom before I get settled in my seat with whatever I’ve brought to do. Today it was my kindle and keyboard.

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