I’m wondering how humans are made, the mechanics of it. Or maybe I’m wondering how I’m made, and if it’s more different or alike than other humans. It’s hard to tell. Emotionally I mean. Do we all arrive with the same basic equipment? If so, does this hold true globally? Or is our apparatus set to reflect geographic conditions, cultural standards? How much of what I experience inside is similar to what you experience? I’m actually wondering particularly about happiness. Joy, or the absence there of. Of course, I get it that those in tragic or difficult circumstances aren’t feeling joyful, but is their meter still running quietly beneath the despair, ticking away in a dormant state? I have to believe that we each have a mechanism, the programming and possibility of joy. I mean, I just have to start there, don’t I?
I remember moments of joy as a kid, and have memories of fun, but most of my childhood feels like the longest gray dawn imaginable, taking YEARS for the sun to finally show its late ass face. But shortly after leaving home it did, and I remember being shocked at how deeply joyous I could feel, once the meter started running on the reg again. It was the most pleasant of surprises, and for the most part, through all of the ups and downs of the following decades, that motor has not failed me. Which is not at all to say that I’m always happy. I’m not an idiot.
A few significant things have been taking place in my life over the past six months, some of them movements that I’ve been waiting years to see. It has rearranged some of the furniture in my mind, done some deep internal housecleaning that needed to happen, and I feel healthier than I have in many years. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. It’s been a blast, I gotta say. I’ve also got to honestly say that in this past week something occurred that left me reeling for a few days. Probably more accurate to say reoccurred, as addiction has been a lifelong companion to me, having never had a time in my life where I wasn’t connected to an addict and the impact of his/her behaviors. And of course I have my own issues, though not with substance abuse. Anyway, long story short, the dance began this week again, seemingly out of nowhere, as is often the case. Though not really. (I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, so for those that know me and might be wondering, my family is ok, please don’t worry. No drugs were taken in the making of this story:). As you might expect, emotional issues were deeply involved, and I found myself once again at the bottom of the pit, struggling to find the rope and begin the long climb back to the top. To find, once again, my own sense of peace, while not losing touch with those whom I love and care for. Even writing these words… it’s funny. It’s a well-worn path in my life, but still a bit of a jungle; you gotta get that machete out each time and start chopping your way back to civilization. For me, it’s a fight to get back to my joy. Joy has become the light waiting in the dark for me, the home base.
Even on the worst night of my life, I remember lying in bed for hours, trying to make sense of the inconceivable horrors of the day. And feeling the smallest ticking deep within as I wondered how we would go on living. I imagine it to be like the way a compass needle trembles and jumps toward the north. Beating ever so slightly beneath the shock and pain was the tiniest needle… pointing toward joy. It wasn’t showing the way, but it was reminding me that the possibility still existed, somewhere. I guess that’s where hope lies, right? In that tiny beating needle…. In our belief that Joy is always at least a future possibility, even in the darkest hour it shines from the distance.
So in the shock of this week’s development, I lost sight of that needle momentarily. There were a few days, or parts of days, where I couldn’t get past my feelings. But slowly I began to be aware of the ticking…the trembling of the compass point beneath my emotions. Pointing the way toward strength, toward recovery. Maybe it’s true that our feelings are connected in some way to the compass? Even as I tried to help my friend find his way back from the jungle, we talked a lot about feelings. Understanding them, recognizing them and growing in our understanding of their mechanical origins and directions. Knowing ourselves, and how we work internally. Becoming master of our own ships, stepping up to take the wheel and steer the course ourselves rather than letting the tides and the moon decide where we go. For me, the better I understand myself the easier it is to find my way in the dark. It’s a tricky process; I’m a little nervous even typing those words. Am I inviting the fates to come at me now?
A happier part of my journey this past half year came through a call I began to sense through various books I was reading, about giving back to my community. It took a while for me to find the right spot but I guess about 6 weeks ago I found a place of service in my community that feels so very right to me. The director of this group is a very inspiring woman who, after years of service, had been stricken with a rare syndrome that causes paralysis, among other horrible symptoms. Shortly after I began serving it was announced that she was climbing the local lighthouse to celebrate her recovery, a year after she had been stricken. I went to the lighthouse simply to cheer her on. Believe me when I tell you that that was my ONLY intention, as my fear of heights is lifelong, well known, and a source of humor for many that know me. (You know who you are:). But a wonderful new friend happened to be there as well, even holding pairs of gloves for any new climbers. She asked me a few times about joining in, but each time I insisted my fear was too great. Long story short, when I saw Malea begin her climb, the ridiculousness of my position finally kicked in. This woman had been PARALYZED, and she was beginning the slow eight story climb. Come on, Kevan. How much of a baby ARE you?! … The funny part was that a local newscaster was taping the whole thing, so that when we finally arrived at the top and walked out onto the little landing that encircles the top, the whole thing was captured on film, even appearing on the evening news that night. I was very happy to celebrate Malea’s recovery of course, but I was also having my own private moment of joy, feeling so much gratitude for the beauty and release on that landing. It made perfect sense to me that my freedom would come as the culmination of a series of seemingly random events: my obedience to the call to serve, the inspiring kindness of one woman who dreamed of feeding the hungry in her community, and a beautiful new friend who was thoughtful enough to bring gloves and encouragement for whoever showed up. This to me is Joy at work. My needle was trembling off the charts that day and as I watched that newscast, I rejoiced at ALL that was going on on that red metal landing.
I continue to climb that lighthouse tower several times a week now. Part of it is for exercise; it’s a great workout and I’ve joined in with a merry band of “conquerors” who enjoy the climb regularly. I’m grateful for the exercise and even more for the friendships. But just like that afternoon climb celebrating Malea’s recovery, I’m having my own separate joy experience at the top of that tower. I rest my back against the warm wall of the tower, away from the railing mind you, and look out at the greenery, the shining intercoastal, and the little community I’ve grown to love SO much. And I just let it all sink into my spirit. The great beauty, the deep gratitude that wells up in me each and every time, and the almost primal JOY that resonates through each nerve ending as I stand, amazed, up there in that breeze. I wish I could bottle this sensation, feed it to the hurting, those who might be discouraged… as I was earlier this week. In the absence of that elixir, I can only say… look for the needle. Its tremble might be weak, it may appear to be moving from a great distance. But I have to believe it’s there. I really do think it’s built into our wiring. Look due north, for that tiny tremble.