Friday, August 21, 2009
What I Learned About Joy from a 100 Year Old Book
I picked up a little book at an antique store, tiny thing really. Written in 1912. Titled Just Be Glad. It has changed my life, for the much, much better.
Here's how it happened.
By late June, I was suffering burn-out after months of multiple stressors; and too often finding myself stuck on what I call Bad Thought Loops. You know, the kind of thoughts that ruin your day but go around and around in your head anyway.
Then Greg purchased me the wrong order at McDonalds. Grilled chicken instead of fried chicken snack wrap. I didn't say anything, in the way that wives cannot say anything and still yell at their mates through their eyeballs. My daughter-in-law Amy had purchased a Time Out Pad for her 3 year old son that buzzes when he's "done his time." Greg had already teasingly threatened to buy me one that morning.
At that point, we stopped at an antique store and he went one way, I went another. Tears in my eyes, I prayed, "What is wrong with me, God? I need help." And in the first booth I walked into I saw this tiny book laying by itself on a table, titled Just Be Glad.
I opened and read and began immediately to relax. I knew it was God's megaphone response to my achy-breaky brain. I found Greg, apologized, hugged, and purchased the book, promising to figure out how to get my Happy Becky Brain back as soon as I could possibly figure out how to do it.
Here's some of the gems from this fragile book (with a Merry Christmas greeting inscribed from 1915 inside!) that helped soothe, restore, re-orient my thinking, and calm my soul. I've shared many of these quotes bit my bit on facebook and twitter and the response was so encouraging (Please keep posting those!) that I decided to take some time to put them all in one place. If you or someone else needs a little re-directing to get back on the path of joy, please feel free to share this if you think it might be helpful.
1. "All things respond to the call of rejoicing, all things gather where life is a song." (the refrain in this book, repeated several times)
2. When things do not give you pleasure, proceed instead to give pleasure to your own heart and soul.
When things do not please you resolve to please yourself by being glad and you can add immeasurably to your happiness in this simple manner.
3. You must remember that the fountain of Joy within your own soul is infinitely greater than all your external sources of joy combined. But as far as we can, we should add the joys from the without to the joys from within, and in all things be glad.
4. If you have lost anything, have no regrets. Be glad and begin again. Be glad that you can begin again.
5. When fate seems unkind do not be unkind to yourself by being disheartened or dismayed. ....Before you lie vast fields of undeveloped and unexplored opportunities-- fields that you would not have known had not this seeming misfortune come upon you.
6. The heart that lives in disappointments is heavy. The glad heart ascends to mountain tops.
7. Surround us with an abundance of human sunshine, and the day's work will easily be done; we shall, with far less effort, overcome our obstacles; our troubles will largely be removed; and our burdens entirely laid aside. Every man can ease the troubles of others in this remarkable manner; and the secret is simple -- just be glad.
8. No man who acts just for personal gain can enter the spirit of joy; and yet the glad heart receives more of everything that is of true worth in life than does the person who forgets gladness in pursuit of gain for self alone.
9. Be glad for the things you have and you will find you have far more than you thought. Then you will not miss, in the least, the things you have not.
10. It is better to have attained to personal gladness than to have become the crowned monarch of a solar system. The reason is simple. The glad heart is the sunshine of all life, a benediction to every man, a perpetual blessing to everything in creation.
11. Prove that your cherished dreams are not necessary to your happiness and better things than you could dream will be yours.
12. He alone can live the best and enjoy life the most who takes for his motto -- just be glad. Though every mind in the world may give darkness; his will continue to give light.
13. Wherever you may be, add sunshine. Whatever your position might be, be a human sunbeam.
14. Do not think that happiness must keep its distance so long as you have so much to pass through. The more you have to pass through, the more you need happiness.
15. Gladness is not pure sentiment. It pays. It is not a luxury for a favored few alone. It is a necessity that all should secure in abundance.
16. Gladness is a magnet and it draws more and more of everything that can increase gladness.
To these thoughts I would add that joy is the well we must drink from to draw strength. I don't think I ever really understood that, but "The joy of the Lord is your strength," the psalmist said.
A clear vision of Joy to Come Again, helps us endure the worst of times. "For the joy set before him, he endured the cross..." Jesus clung to the joy ahead so he could endure his darkest hours.
Mother Teresa used to say, "Joy is the net I use to catch souls." Joy is irresistible and it is divine.
I wrote an entire book, with Dr. Earl Henslin, on the subject of joy and its effect on the brain. Yet I am still learning so much about joy that I don't know if I'll ever tire of its study. One of the last letters (to the Philippians) that the Apostle Paul wrote in his old age, used the word joy over 30 times. He, too, must have found the subject fascinating.
I am also realizing that taking responsibility for filling our Joy Tank is the most unselfish thing we can do. I know that my husband wants, most of all, a happy contented wife. For if he has that, the rest of the good stuff will happen naturally.
Joy is also a great clarifier when we lose our focus or feel confused. Since reading this book, when I stumble upon a problem or worry or concern... I press "pause" and ask myself, "What can I do right now that will be joy to my soul and body?" Then I concentrate on getting to a more joyful place FIRST, and the usually the answer comes, the worries melt, things get back in perspective and I have the "strength that comes from joy" to handle them.
" For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
for the happy heart, life is a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15