My summer reading list includes The Book of Joy and The Wisdom of Menopause. The Book of Joy is based on a week-long conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, moderated and written by Douglas Abrams. The premise of their conversation was to answer the question: “How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?” The Wisdom of Menopause focuses on women tapping into their changing bodies rather than just getting through menopause.
I won’t get too involved in talking about perimeopause, which started for me about four years ago. But I will say that this summer the internal workings of my body made a drastic shift, prompting me to pick up both books.
It’s not that I was joyless when I felt a need to read The Book of Joy. What I felt was a deeper layer of my mind open up, some untapped region that wanted to be fueled or fed or filled. The only thing that made sense to me was to fill it with joy. Fill it with a perspective I already believed in, based on the work I did in my twenties. But more of it. I wanted joy to exist at a deep cellular level and I believed this was my shot, with something inside me newly opened to receive.
I am more joyful than I was just two months ago.
My sister patiently waits for my writing to be less sad for her to read. To be fair, I write a lot about situations she has lived and doesn’t necessarily care to relive. I totally get it.
I believe my writing process stems from my healing process after the traumatic car crash. First, I built a foundation to work from. Then, I scrutinized every devastating angle of what happened to find compassion for myself. This is how I tackle writing projects. Hence, lots of emotionally sad and tough material. But, I also want work that brings a smile to the reader’s face, and I want my sister to read my writing. So, I’m working toward bringing the joy I live into my writing more. Offer a little bit of balance anyway.
Which brings me to the teaching that the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu believe is at the core of finding joy: “We are most joyful when we focus on others, not on ourselves. In short, bringing joy to others is the fastest way to experience joy oneself.”
I can’t always control what I write. It’s how I process the world. But I can control some of it. And from now on, I’ll be strengthening my joyful muscles.