“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” - Marianne Williamson
The New "Normal"
It's around past 5am, GMT+1 and I'm up with several thoughts running through my mind. The world as we know it now has no semblance to what it looked like just a few weeks ago. Who would have thought hey? Everything has pretty much gone tupsy turvy now, with no assurance that things will ever go back to "normal" anytime soon or even if ever. Normal! That word sounds a bit strange considering the state of the world's affairs right now.
What does normal even mean, and are we ever going back to this "normal" ever again? These and many more thoughts keep me up late at night and into the early hours of the morning. New terms have emerged which are now part of our vocabulary such as "social distancing" and it really does appear that even when this situation calms down, society would have probably fragmented to tiny bits and such a state where this present state now becomes our continuous reality.
Within and Without.
My opening quote is from Marianne Williamson which says "joy is what happens to us..." and this really got me thinking. One would think that joy is something which should happen from without, but this quote simply let's us know that joy is something that happens from within and it is something we allow and give permission.
But what really is there to be joyful about? The truth is if you probably look around you, then there's not much to be joyful about. Lives have been upended in an instant and there's so much anxiety about tomorrow. No one has got this fully figured out and we're all just taking things one step at a time. Even when we appear outwardly to have things under control, we're inwardly freaking out and screaming for help. The only downside to this is that those who should probably hear our cries are also screaming out, wishing someone will also hear them.
Isn't it a contradiction to say joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are? I mean what really is "good" about our current reality and state of being? This "situation" crept up on us, turned things upside down and we're simply at the mercy of the elements someone might say.
A few days ago I sat in my room and stared out of the window and before me was an amazing view of the Sahel skyline. I basked in that moment for a few minutes and everything seemed to pause at that instant. Nothing seemed to matter and in that very moment, I appreciated the simplicity of nature and my mind began to wander to other things which I am grateful about. They were "seemingly little" things, but as I began to focus on the positives, joy began to slowly but surely rise from within and I understood that joy is truly what you allow happen to you.
Joy is truly a gift. However, it is a gift that we give to ourselves, and not one that is handed over to us. It starts from being joyful and grateful about the little things around us and with the positive news happening in the world. In the midst of all the bad news, you just have to go the extra mile to search for the good in the world today. The truth is there is good in and around you, but you'll have to take that conscious and deliberate step not only to seek for it, but to allow it take root in you.
“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? (136-137)”. ― Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras.
In conclusion, the key to being joyful is to be grateful about the little things, to understand that joy is what we allow from "within" rather that "without" and lastly, joy is all about recognizing that this journey of life is more of a marathon than a sprint. This means I can choose to allow joy at every season, stage and phase of my life.
So, what happens when I've tried my best and just can't find this joy from within you may ask? Well, my simple response is for you to keep trying. It's right there in you - and it's within. Remember, it's a gift you give yourself and something you give permission to. I wish you a joyful life and experience, even in the midst of this current and messy world.
Oyindamola's work covers the intersection of human capital strategy, leadership and talent management, nonprofit management, youth development and higher education. With 10+ years’ experience of working on social innovation projects in Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America, he is passionate about raising ethical leaders to drive innovation, entrepreneurship and development in rural and urban communities, as well as empowering emerging leaders and professionals to function effectively at the intersection of passion, purpose, impact and profit. Currently based in the Sahel, he writes from Niamey, Niger.