Joy of Living
Last night I saw a young mom take a cake for three years of sobriety. Her little kids who are barely more than three themselves, were there. They were in the their pjs. I lost it inside, it was like things became unraveled inside me. I was seriously worried about losing it, right there in front of everyone. Like sobbing, choking tears. I had no Kleenex so that helped me keep my emotions in check. It was so good to see her celebrate. She has been through so much. And those kids have a fundamentally different future because their momma is sober. Like their lives won the lottery. Because their lives, if their mom wasn’t sober, were a guaranteed shitshow. I love seeing hope when there once was only tragedy and pending tragedy.
There are so many joys of living. So many that I tend to miss them. Moments sublime, poignant and grand even though their subject matter might not be so magical. Watching those little kids walk up there last night, bedtime clothes on, scrambling up with their mom and all her friends, was one of those joys of living. It is also a gift of sobriety. A huge fucking gift of sobriety.
My own kids are not so cute and easy. They are teens, struggling to grow into the adults we expect them to be…my son in a year and my daughter in three. I miss those times when they would be freshly out of the bath, pjs on, and have them bombarded me on the couch, or my bed. Smelling fresh, and sweet and full of questions. I wish I would have enjoyed this time more…except I know that I did. I can look back at my journals and read that I did appreciate it. I did live for it. It was and has always been one of the joys of life and living.
I get wrapped up in all the shit that doesn’t really matter, and it pulls me away from the awe, the love, the amazing moments of my life. And I try, really I do, to be present and enjoy the process. Some days I do better than others.
My other friend is having her mom’s memorial today. A celebration of a life lived and also not lived. Her mom was this giant light in her life, that burned so brightly that it often left my friend standing in the dark alone. The love always there but the experience of that love, hard, isolating and lonely a lot of the time for my friend.
But today she will be surrounded by her husband, son, other son and his wife. Today she will be supported and held up by the family she created, to help her lay to rest the bliss and the hardship that comes from loving and being raised by someone who foundered in life.
Both women show me the joy of living. One with her amazing story of recovery, redemption and opportunity to mother young babies, sober, and better adjusted. The other getting to say goodbye to her mother who was sometimes larger than life but also a source of great pain far too often.
And it occurred to me that it really matters not that much what direction we are going, towards birth or death. There is beauty, love, and lessons in all of it. All of it is a joy of living.
Like right now, I am surrounded by cats, sleeping, not so tiny anymore cats that I have had the privilege of raising since they were one day old. One day. I am the only mother they have ever known. And they love me. And I them. My children are both sleeping in their beds with their dogs. My own dog is protecting us all on yard patrol, ensuring that none of those dreadful crows ever enter our yard or the airspace above our yard.
The house is quiet except for my consistent tapping on my computer. That is the only sound. Me typing out my life as it is happening one word, one sentence at a time. There are no birds singing this morning, they too perhaps subdued by the morning mist and fog. Perhaps they depressed by the absence of the rising sun.
Life feels good right now. I feel grounded and happy if a little sleepy. Privileged to wake up slowly, thoughtfully and with a little appreciation for the grace that is all around me.
I am alive (at least right now). That is joyful.
I am present (at least right now). That is joyful.
I am calm (at least right now). That is joyful.
I am grateful (at least right now). That is joyful.
There are so many things to find joy in these days. But I miss them because I have these other ideas that get in the way. And if I can only just be still, quiet, peaceful, I can access those moments by thinking of my friend waking up with her kids this morning, maybe making breakfast for them, snuggling on the couch. I can think of my other friend, waking up and getting to celebrate her mom’s life, with her own family, surrounded by love.
And somehow by accessing thoughts of others, I find my own joy of living. My own appreciation for my children who shall likely sleep until the afternoon because that is the life of a teen. And I can enjoy the misty morning fog, watch the cat bathing on the end of my bed. Drinking coffee while I write, watching the other cat snooze away.
These are not spectacular moments, except they are. I can go to them in my mind any time I like. I can feel the love of my friend with her littles snuggled around her, I can feel the love of my friend for her mother and the beauty that still exists right along side the loss. I can be joyful about the fact that my son is home, my daughter safe and my parents healthy. I get to be in the middle of all of this life being lived…I get to be here.
And that perhaps is the greatest joy of living…being here. Perhaps today I can spend more time being wowed by just that fact, I am here, alive, present and getting to live. I get to participate in the joy of living…at least right now.
“For her life, any life, she had to believe, was nothing but the continuity of its love.”