enjoy this life

Love What Is

Recently two different people said to me (in response to my social media postings), You really enjoy your life, don't you?

It's a lovely thing to say, but in both cases I noticed a strange internal reaction.

I almost felt guilty, or like I needed to correct the statement...as if there was something disrespectful about enjoying one's life.

It triggered in me a memory from many, many years ago, when a friend said to me, You just seem to get whatever you want. 

That, first of all, isn't true, but it also made me feel that I was undeserving of the gifts I'd received in my life. It made me feel as if accepting these gifts was somehow harmful to the people I loved.

You weren't created to suffer

We have this notion in our culture (like many harmful things, it probably originates with the Puritans) about how we earn things or become deserving of them. 

We believe we're supposed to earn everything we receive through suffering and toil and sacrifice; that no one should receive anything without earning it.

It's a demoralizing and limiting belief.

The comment that I seem to enjoy my life also triggered other memories for me, of the times my friends and acquaintances have expressed jealousy about the circumstances of my life.

Most of the time, when people do this, they intend for it to sound light, funny, even affirming.

But it isn't light or affirming.

Scroll through your Facebook feed and notice how many times people respond to someone's post about love or travel or beauty by saying I'm so jealous or even I hate you.

Think about the energy of those words; they're not uplifting. They drag you down.

When did it become acceptable to use the phrase I hate you when commenting on another person's happiness or good fortune?

When did we decide it was acceptable to state our jealousies to one another, as if the person living the experience you desire stole that experience from you? As if that person is somehow responsible for the lack you feel in your life?

It's really not acceptable.

you don't always get what you want

There are things in my life that I have prayed about, worked on, asked for, and tried to transform for as long as I can remember. If you went back through my journals, you would see these issues and requests over and over and over, stretching through the years.

I know what it's like to want something so badly you can taste it, to do all of the work around it, to try with all of your heart to bring it into your experience, to surrender it,  and yet remain desperately separate from it.

I know what it's like to see someone else flowing easily with the thing that is so difficult, even unreachable to you.

I know what that's like and I can tell you, it feels so much better, when you encounter someone who has the thing you want, to delight in it with them rather than feel resentful.

It feels so much better, when it seems this person easily acquired the thing you've been wanting, to be grateful for that ease, to be inspired by it, to be glad.

That's how we love one another.

And that's how we love life.

Love life as it is

When I noticed this shame reaction in myself, when I noticed that I stumbled over the words, Yes, I enjoy my life, I realized that this is a big part of my work.

This is so much at the heart of creative expression and sacred devotion.

This is the reason I compile a Love List every week.

The love and appreciation of life.

The cultivation of joy.

The honoring of being alive.

It is not only okay to enjoy your life, it is why you are here.

you don't have to be happy all the time

No one is happy all the time.

In fact, insistence upon "positivity" can be pretty harmful.

Feelings are good and natural, and sometimes what we're feeling doesn't feel good.

Emotions are guides and maps and suppressing them is unhealthy.

We need to acknowledge and express all of our emotions, without judging them, without clinging on to them, without masking them.

Nothing good comes from feigning joy.

But something good does come from allowing joy.

God loves joy

The Puritans were wrong about a lot of things, not the least of which was their concept of God and what is pleasing to God.

You know what I think pleases God?

Joy.

Think about this, God experiences life through us.

Is God with us when we toil? When we suffer? When we are sunk down into the deep dark pits of despair and depression and doubt and pain? 

Absolutely.

Of course.

Without a doubt.

But God is always with us when we celebrate and savor.

God is with us when we make love and dance and eat delicious food.

When you notice the intricate, delicate beauty of a flower, God is there with you, noticing.

When your heart swells with love, your heart swells with God.

Enjoying your life is a form of gratitude.

You were built for joy.

You were built for pleasure.

You were designed to notice beauty and become one with it.

Choose your focus

So, no one is happy all the time or content all the time or even hopeful all the time.

I can be an intense person. I have deep moods and angry flare-ups and dark sorrows.

But I do enjoy my life.

Sometimes a moment will simply wash through me, with so much love I can barely stand it - just a moment in my ordinary life - the way the coffee tastes or the play of light in the trees or the way a breeze feels or a rabbit eating clover in the front yard.

This world is so beautiful, so tender and so extravagant and so incredibly beautiful, and I can choose to direct my focus toward that truth.

I can choose mindfulness.

I can choose the moment.

I can choose to pull my focus into what is right now and I can breathe in what is good and beautiful about right now.

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.
— Henri Nouwen

A couple of weeks ago, I saw my former neighbor. It had been years since I'd seen her. She'd been through a great tragedy and personal loss, and then I'd lost touch with her.

I was thinking about you recently, she said. I thought to myself, I hope she's still enjoying her life.

I was slightly taken aback that she'd used the phrase, since I'd already written most of this post. I was surprised that she'd seen me that way, as someone who enjoys her life.

I am, I said.

So am I, she said.

To Enjoy is to Savor

To enjoy your life doesn't necessarily mean to be happy.

I think it is more like savoring - tasting everything and holding it on your tongue.

To enjoy your life is to honor the calls and longings of your heart, to surround yourself with the textures, sounds, colors, and aromas that speak to the deepest parts of you, to be free.

(You give yourself freedom, you know.)

To enjoy your life is to accept who you are, where you are, and know that you are rooted and winged in divine purpose and endless love.

So, I hope you do.

I hope you will.

And I hope you will never feel even a smidgen of guilt about it.