My joy has been almost completely connected to seeking some unique purpose for my life. It was the drive leading me to the priesthood. And it continues, in some degree, in my seeking some creative usefulness in that role.
Fortunately, this is shifting for me. I am recognizing that the joy arising from being creatively useful is primarily ego based. It requires the affirmation of others and is easily compromised. And, because it is primarily situational, it is fleeting.
For me, experiencing joy is becoming less about what I do, and more about how I do it. It is an intentional choice to be less concerned with my role or functionality, and more concerned about my head space, the condition of my heart, and what I may be projecting in any given situation. In other words, recognizing the impact of the emotional, physical, and spiritual energy that I take with me into each situation.
Making these kinds of choices has meant accepting the world as I encounter it. To allow that it all is, as it all is. And though much is truly wonderful, unfortunately, much is extremely messed up and wounded. I must acknowledge the grief that sits deeply (and even frozen) within me. And, most annoyingly, I must live with the fact that I have been, and continue to be (far too often), an accomplice in perpetuating some of those wounds.
To accept all this, I must constantly remind myself, “it’s Ok…I’m Ok”, and let go anxious thoughts and bitter judgments (about myself and others). It is a process in which forgiveness plays a important role. And not just “I forgive you” …but also… “I need to be forgiven by you too” The significance of this absolution (given and received) is beyond my full comprehension.
I think my most significant awareness is that when fulfilling my responsibilities (and assuming new ones), I need first to empty myself of my own agenda(s). They can be based on false expectations, unchallenged traditions, ego based exuberance (mistaken as passion or a ‘calling’), and unsympathetic, poorly informed, judgements. Worse than that, an agenda can be riddled with self protective habits (and not necessarily conscious ones).
Becoming aware of these agendas is definitely a work in progress. It is not easy recognizing when the joy garnered from what I can do (with all good intent), becomes a subtle manipulation, and/or a controlling sense of duty, and/or a hardened sense of right.
Discovering my impact upon others is a steep learning curve. Even steeper is learning how not to put myself (my needs) in the middle of what’s happening. This means letting go some well ingrained mechanisms by which I manage a safe distance or separateness (a need arising from an early family life in which boundaries were too often crossed). It also means letting go those incessant self shaming thoughts like “I am not doing it right”, or “I am not doing enough”.
As I see it, emptying myself of these distractions is a stilling of the soul. Success feels like I am retreating into a light that is brighter and warmer then I have experienced before.