Shield Your Joy
Summer has gotten the best of me. After a month or so of steady posts, I slipped, I tripped, I did a double flip...and haven't posted in awhile. In the spirit of summer, I'm going to go casual--dirty hair, flip flops, and a fast and a couple of fast and loose blog posts.
About two months ago, Gretchen Rubin, author/blogger of The Happiness Project(blog), and The Happiness Project (book) published a post that asked "Do You Shield Your Joyous Ones?"
She posted the following prayer:
A prayer attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo includes the line, Shield your joyous ones:
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ;
rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones.
And all for your love’s sake.
And followed with this comment:
"Once I started to reflect about my “joyous ones,” I began to appreciate the people I know who are joyous."
Her post coincided with the opening weekend of Camp Deer Run, the evangelical Christian summer camp I attended as a girl.
Despite the fact that I have struggled with many aspects of Camp Deer Run's theology, my memories of summer camp continue to shimmer with joy and sweetness, as they do for many of my fellow alumni campers. And on the first weekend of camp I couldn't help but find myself humming our song,
"Camp Deer Run is the camp for me
boom boom boom boom
Camp Deer Run is the camp for me
boom boom boom boom
I'm as happy here as I can be
now ain't that heavenly!"
In June I still feel like I should be packing my steamer trunk. My dream life takes me on frequent journeys back to this place. I arrive in my cabin, and await my old friends to join me. Presumably we are hoping to return to the shelter of a place that was so good at "shielding your joyous ones."
What Rubin's post had me thinking, and then was highlighted as I read Camp Deer Run's "tweet" announcing opening weekend, was that to some extent, we are all joyous ones. Certainly there are those (Andrea, thank you) who are most likely to be our sparkling cheerleaders, but inside all of us, there is a spark of joy--and it has done me good this summer to think about ways to shield my inner "joyous one."
I became aware that I more frequently ruminate about potential future disappointment, or current minor set backs, than I celebrate a joyous moment or feeling. The good moments seem to flit in and out, while I find myself wiling away long stretches of time thinking about the bad things that could befall my kids, my husband, my parents, my brother....insert the infinite list of people and things I care about.
So for those of you who also find yourself more frequently ruminating than celebrating, here's a list of things I found that help me shield my joy:
This one is number one for me, not because I do it most, but because it works well for me and I think I should do it more. As I thought about shielding joy, I developed an appreciation for how the evangelical tradition focuses on worship--which at camp, mostly was by way of singing. For those of you who don't have a religious tradition "worship" is going to sound like getting on your knees and submitting, but in the evangelical tradition, worship is about celebrating (and by celebrating, experiencing) how awesome God is. I recently finished reading The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinners Sememster at America's Holiest University, by Kevin Roose. It's a young journalists account of attending Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's evangelical school in Virginia. He describes worship at Liberty like this:
"The French sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote about 'collective effervescence,' a special kind of energy that forms around mass gatherings...Liberty, for all its flaws and quirks, fosters more collective effervescence than any other place I've ever been. Every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, you feel it at Campus Church. Three times a week you feel it at convocation...It's the sensation you get when your mind is swallowed up by a sort of group mind, when the hundred-decibel worship music and laser light shows and the people jumping and screaming and hollering all around you combine to form a social organism all its own."
OK, I don't get that when I'm humming or singing to myself, but I DID get that at camp--and so when I sing the old songs, I tap into the effervescent feeling. If you don't have praise songs in your repetoire, try "This land is my land, this land is your land," the Marines Hymn (From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli), or "Take me out to the ballgame"
2. Follow the kids' lead. Kids seem like joy machines to me. They laugh all the time, and while there is a fair bit of whining at our house, it is short lived. They move on to the next happy moment surprisingly quickly.
3. Find some nature.
4. Play with the dog.
5. Learn a joke.
6. Take up an old hobby you had as a kid--for me this is coloring. Even though my kids are coloring all the time, it took a trip to a spa that had the exact coloring book I had as a girl to remind me of how much I liked coloring. For me, it is a different boost than singing an upbeat song, but it is a happy practice all the same.
7. Connect with friends.
That's my short list. I would love to hear about any ideas that pop up for other people.
And a big thank you to my camp friends, protectors of my joy, friends for life. I so appreciate the conversation we've all been having this last week.