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The Pursuit of Joy

Hey!  Welcome all!!!  Glad you are here…at this time and at this place.   With me.  Sharing my writing and this space called Pursuit of a Joyful Life!  I am humbled by your presence.

A few words about my writing, my blog and the name of this group.  I named my blog  “Pursuit of a Joyful Life” because joy is what I chase each and every day that I have breath.  Each and every day that I have energy and life within my soul.  Within my heart.  And it’s called a ‘pursuit’… because I am still working at it.  Joy does not come easy.

And I think sometimes we confuse joy with happiness.  We think joy is when life is pleasant.  That joy is peace and easy-going and bliss.  But joy is hard, my friends.  It is hard.  And it is a trail I follow like a dog tracking game.  Like a child chases after rainbows for that prized pot of gold.  And so do I, chase after joy each and every day hoping to find it in unexpected places.  And when it eludes me, I vow to never rest until I find it again.  And I always do.

I want to share a story.  A very recent, humiliating, humbling story.  But first, permit me to give you a little background information.

A few years ago, I was doing a short-term contract with a local school.  It was a music contract, teaching Grade 1-6.  I loved my task and its musical focus, particularly because I had been given freedom to do a variety of music appreciation activities with the older students during class and recess times.  The students were engaged, and so was I.  This was teaching at its easiest and at its best, as far as I was concerned.

For the Grade 6 closing that year, we had planned a sort of Flash Mob dance which would take place during the ceremony.  It was a lot of work pulling everything together, and I had no previous understanding on which to build.  Everything was a learning experience.  But that dance was my primary focus.  It was my baby!  And I was pumped to deliver to the awaiting crowd of family and friends the resulting product coming from the students hard work and effort.

Finally the big night came.  And I thought everything was set and ready to go.  We had checked the sound system, and it worked (actually, it later crashed and totally failed us, but that’s another story all together…).  The students were dressed to the Nine’s.  And I was on my game.

The time came for the proceedings to get underway, and I took my seat in the front row.  I waited expectantly for the Principal or some other dignitary to get up and introduce the program.  A few seconds ticked by.  I waited some more.  Finally, I looked up, only to hear the undertone of the Principal’s voice- who was leaning across the stomachs of the dignitaries in the front row.

“Aren’t you going to lead ‘O Canada’?” she whispered loudly.

“O Canada…,” I curiously thought to myself.    And then, as I realized this part of the program had been overlooked by Your’s Truly- the acting music instructor and concert co-ordinator, I then quietly hissed under my breath, “Oh! CANADA.”

I turned and looked.  There were five hundred people behind me.  I looked below my feet…no hole in which to descend.   It was sink or swim.  So, I started up towards the stage, and the awaiting mic.  Hoping not to trip on the seemingly mile-long walk towards the steps leading up.   After I had started out,  my Principal- sensing my lethargy, wisely decided to follow me up.  Whether or not she knew I was in fight or flight mode, I do not know.   I will admit the thought of running did occur to me momentarily.  But nevertheless, we both arrived.  Together.  And one of us was a little jittery.  I won’t say whom.

Needless to say, we both looked at each other.  And we both knew: there was to be no music with which to cue our start.  No piano player had been selected.  There was not even a canned music tract to be found in the place.  I looked at the Principal.  She looked at me.  A showdown of sorts.  Neither one of us in any hurry to initiate vocal take-off.

And finally.  As there were five hundred sets of eyes boring down on me, and about twenty Grade 6 student’s standing behind the stage- raring to get on with the show.  I let ‘er rip.

“O Canada…our home and native land.”

Well.  About part way in, I started to get a little more nervy than I already was, the adrenaline wearing off and all.  And my mind took a blank spell.  I started to panic.  I started to sweat.  I looked over at the Principal, and she seemed to be doing a fine job.  So, I stepped back from the mic, and took a breather.  Not a long break…just a pause, so as to catch my breath and consider, “What in the heck is the next line again?”  And as those five hundred voices sang out, I remembered.  And just in time.  As the song was nearing a close.

PHEW.  Not my most stellar performance moment of all time.  But time has healed my wounded pride.

Fast-forward.  To present day…actually, yesterday to be precise.

So, I have again been invited to sing ‘O Canada’ with a choir of five-hundred.  Only this time, they aren’t strangers.  They are my peers- teachers and colleagues with whom I teach and converse.  You can imagine my anxiety.  I have of course sung this patriotic piece in public numerous times before- indeed, I sing it every day with my Kindergarten students.  But, to sing it in front of an audience of one’s peers.  Now that is intimidating.

But I love a challenge, and I have decided to face my fear- that is, the fear of forgetting the words to my national anthem while singing on stage- and I take on the assignment.

I had one week to prepare.  In which, I was also to present at two literacy work-shops and sing at three other benefits or assemblies.  To say that I put ‘O Canada’ on the back burner is a bit of an understatement.

But.  I did remember the angst of that long-ago Grade 6 closing.  So with that propelling me, I decided to look up the words on Google.  And I don’t know what happened.  Maybe I got distracted.  Maybe the kiddos called for me.  Maybe my mind was on other more pressing concerns.  But I never did write down the words to the song on paper.  And when morning broke on the day of the meeting at which I was to sing, I decided to go with my memory.  My poor, poor memory.

Well, I must have practiced the song close to ten times.  And then later, as we were about to walk on stage, I decided in a last-ditch effort, to finally get smart and write down the words.  FROM MEMORY.  And feeling confident, I walked out on stage.  And sang my heart out.  With gusto.

And it was only much later, after I had replaced the mic on its stand, walked back to my seat and sat my relieved butt down in a folding chair- breathing a huge sigh of relief, that my Hubbie leaned over and told me…I had sung the wrong words.  Again.  To my absolute and utter horror.

And I tell you all this to say the following: joy is a decision.  A decision reached at not because the circumstances are right and the feelings are perfect.  But because.  Sometimes it is the only way to view life that keeps us from giving up.  And throwing in the towel.  Joy is taking difficulty, frustration, sorrow, sadness, humiliation, anxiety, pain and trouble and using them as a springboard to find the best there is in life.

Pursue joy.  It is the path that leads both forward and back.   Leading toward reflection on both life’s greatest and worst moments.  Moments we would forget or bury if not for joy reminding us to go back. And yet.  Leading us forward to moments of absolute wonder and awe at what it means to be truly human.  And truly alive.

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