Feeling Joy, Despite the Pandemic

I feel sad for so much of the world. Lately, I have felt sad for the health of the earth, sad for people affected by bushfires, sad for the animals compromised by human decisions. But now, I feel sad for the masses of people affected by the Covid-19 virus. It has overwhelmed us. There is so much suffering, caused directly through ill health or indirectly through the consequences of trying to keep it under control. The situation is dire.

We all know this. We keep watch on it every day. We are all sad. Some of us are so sad, we are depressed. Some of us accept the sadness and put it aside, enabling us to help others, or learn new skills or join virtual social groups. Some of us have become highly creative.

And some of us are still able to feel joy. Joy in the time of a pandemic feels inappropriate. It feels forbidden.

But due to my personal circumstances, I am feeling joy. It is restrained. It is restricted. But it is still, joy.

Just a few weeks ago, I experienced huge changes in my life. I moved out of the family home, something I had wanted to do for a long while, my marriage having broken down years before. I floated in limbo, haunted by the threat of lockdown, isolation, and a precarious house settlement. I feared the failing of the plan to start my new life. I feared I would not be able to move into my new home.

And then the pieces fell into place. Each step completed and enabled the baton to be passed. At last, I felt relief. I was so happy to be free. So happy to be at the beginning of a new adventure. I felt joy. And it had been a long time coming.

I wondered if it was all right to feel joy in the circumstances.

To a certain extent, I shared my joy with family and friends. When I moved into my new house, my mother, my sons, and a couple of friends came to help – on different occasions. Separately. No hugs. No gathering. Lots of hand washing.

I felt guilty that my mother came out of self-chosen isolation to help me, but I could not have kept her away. My father and stepmother also veered from safety to see my new home. We all understood the risk and the need to do so. Joy should be shared.

The news continued to get worse. The restrictions tightened. Many people died, lost livelihoods, became homeless. The UK, America, Europe, Asia, and my beloved India, all suffered immense losses and other complications.

And I kept to myself: unpacking boxes, placing ornaments, shopping at Bunnings, decorating. Each box I flattened, shelf I cleared, drawer I organised and room I finished, gave me joy.

Sometimes my joy felt so great, I chastised myself for bad form. I was careful who I talked to about it in case it was judged as such. My good fortune almost became a source of shame.

And then I remembered the teaching I had read in the Vedanta Treatise (A. Parthasarathy) – it is our duty to be self-poised, self-pleased, be peaceful and cheerful, that to be miserable is a social and moral crime, that spreading melancholy to our fellow beings is like spreading disease, and that we should rejuvenate others with happiness and joy. Essentially, that means it is our duty to enjoy our lives, make the most of what we have, and share good feelings with others.

With self-possession, we can give more of ourselves, be more compassionate, be of greater use. Feeling good enables us to share good with others.

The creative people that have made the world laugh, sing, meditate, learn, and play during this pandemic, are doing wonderful things for the mental state, even the spiritual state, of the world. Keeping positive and happy within ourselves means we can keep going, keep supporting and keep helping others do the same. The medical and science people are giving so much. So are the cooks, the cleaners, the decision makers. We can support them by keeping a good attitude, being grateful and doing what we can for others, even if that is just a smile, a nice word, some small assistance.

I appreciate my good fortune and it makes me joyful. Joy like this is not easy to attain and it is fragile. It should be relished and stored in my heart where it will make me strong, peaceful, and cheerful. Feeling sad will not help me help others but feeling glad just might.

What three things couldn’t you live without?

What are three things you can’t live without? Not relationships, not children, not dogs – things! This was a recent conversation I had with friends and it proved to be far more than superficial. It was a window into each of us: childhood associations, memories, connections and what gives us joy.

Some of the answers were obvious, directly related to what we already knew of each other. And some were unexpected. But each contribution branched off into further conversation.

Mine were sunglasses, sea and strong, milky tea.

Why sunglasses? Because I have light-sensitive, blue eyes and I like to be outdoors for most of the day. Outdoors, especially amongst nature, is where I get my joy.

Why the sea? I love the smell of the sea: the saltiness and the seaweed. I love the sound of the sea: the thundering, the shooshing and the gentle lapping. I love the feeling of jumping into the ocean: the cold, salty water enveloping my face, my hair, my body. And its beauty: the glistening reflections on the surface, the aqua and deep blues, the clarity.

And the tea? The morning ritual, no matter how early, of boiling the kettle, warming the teapot, brewing the tea and sitting peacefully to enjoy the slow sipping. It’s a mindful start to the morning. I do this at the end of day too, to close off the business of the day. I was raised with tea: I’d drink it in bed as a child, lazily drinking while reading books on a Sunday morning. My grandmother introduced me to my brand – Lipton Quality Tips. It’s hard to get nowadays. People are trained to opt for the quicker teabag and many have forgotten what good tea tastes like.

My friends had some other things they couldn’t live without:

– Technology, mostly the iPhone and iPad, precious as a tool for taking and storing photos and for communication with loved ones by phone and Facebook.

– The car because of the pleasure of driving and for independent getting around.

–  the Thermomix!

– Music, a musical instrument

– Childhood teddy

– Pillow

– Photos in albums

– and unable to choose from so many!

As I said, all these led to further conversation as to why those things were so necessary to life. In all respects, the reasons related to lifestyle, comfort, sentimental connection or an innate need that was deep within us that gave us joy. It was well worth exploring.

What would be your choice?