Sometimes I misplace my joy. I usually feel her slipping away and know to cling to her fiercely, but at times I am blindsided. She is there and then she is gone, with only a hollow space left behind. I search in all her usual places, but I know joy is not to be found easily once misplaced.
And because there is an empty place where my joy belongs, I must resist the temptation to fill it with other things. There are many weeds waiting to overtake joy’s corner. And once her place is entrenched with sorrow, joy is harder to find. So I fight to keep sadness and hopelessness from overrunning joy’s rightful place. I try to not fill the emptiness with meaninglessness: watching TV all day, sitting at the computer for hours on end, forgetting to live life (although when joy is missing I’m not always successful). And I never stop searching.
When I seek out my joy’s regular haunts- time with my children, reading, praying, just living my life- I often find her shadows: happiness, pleasure, or enjoyment. For moments these shadows occupy joy’s place, keeping her spot open and reminding me to keep searching. But they are transient and insubstantial; dim reflections of joy. However, they can renew my strength and remind me my goal and sometimes they are enough to keep despair from usurping joy’s rightful place.
There was a time when I didn’t yet appreciate or notice joy. When she was gone I could not find her. I couldn’t even be sure how to find her, or if she truly ever existed. That was a long, difficult time and my joy came back only with outside help. Now I understand joy better and I miss her sooner. I recognize she is only misplaced and never lost forever. I know and miss joy keenly enough to preserve her place and persevere in my quest.
And so when joy leaves too quickly and I find she is misplaced, I keep living my life. I refuse to replace her with other things and try to hold to her shadows, without forgetting they are not joy’s equal. And I wait. And I search. And I struggle. But I know joy exists. I know she holds a place within me. I know she is only misplaced. This is what comforts me.
And one day I discover that joy has returned. Like glasses searched for in vain and found on top your head, she is found right where she always belongs. Often it only takes a few days, but sometimes a month or more will pass without her. There are even still times I wonder if she is not misplaced, but truly lost. But my joy has always returned. And I think knowing she is sometimes gone helps me embrace her more fully.