We need it. We want it. But can we allow it?


Admittedly, it’s not been an easy year. In January, my husband almost died during heart surgery – twice. In February our 17-year old cat died three weeks after we returned home from the hospital. And in June, my brother Richard died tragically when his airplane crashed. I thought I would never feel joy again.

I asked some friends who had lost several family members, how they found joy after loss of this magnitude. They told me, “You find it in the younger generations.” That gave me hope. I was then planning the McGrath family reunion, filled with cousins in their 20’s and 30’s. And I have younger friends. But, you can’t force joy. You just prepare the soil for it to grow in its own time.

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Bee in a peony                                               With Paul in a Bee Costume

A few days ago, at the dentist’s office, I read a TIME magazine article on Robin Williams. A quote from Christopher Reeves after Robin had visited him in the hospital, really spoke to me:

“Thank God I wear a seat belt in this chair, because I would have fallen out laughing. In the middle of a tragedy like this, in the middle of a depression, you can still experience genuine joy and laughter and love. And anyone who says life’s not worth living is totally wrong, totally wrong.”

Laughter and tears are good bedfellows, but the one that gets us up in the morning is worth cultivating.

In the past few weeks I have noticed joy seeping in around my roots. It pops me out of my tears, and chases me around like a cat after a ball of yarn. I even felt joy recently while listening to the concern of a dear friend of mine. Instead of sinking into sadness with her, I suggested she let the toxic energy of those around her drop into the ground and be composted. Somehow, this image got us both laughing, and she let the sadness go. Earth not only cultivates joy, it composts grief.

Much of our own sadness is the trapped energy of others. As a child, I did not feel permission to be happy unless my mother was happy. My job was to take care of her. I couldn’t read during the day without worrying I would be seen as lazy and insensitive, so joy was not part of my vocabulary. I didn’t know then that joy itself is healing.

As we return to work after Labor Day, I share this photo from the last day of my summer vacation as a reminder that joy is always on the horizon. While you can’t make it come faster than it wants, you don’t have to wait until all the clouds have lifted. You can invite it as an intention, call it in, seduce it, play with it, and chances are, it will sail in!


How do you find joy in your life?

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23 Responses to Joy

  1. Susan Goldstein says:

    I love the idea of setting the intention for joy. Very inspiring.

  2. Diane F says:

    Truly beautiful, Eileen. Thank-you.

  3. joaneee says:

    Hi Eileen, Beautifully framed on my desk before me is a quotation that I have lived by for many years: In the depth of winter, I finally found that, within me, lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus wrote it long ago. It buoys me up in every season of life — that, for all of us, life has its ups and downs. Often the downs seem unbelievable, pouring in, scary, never-ending, but after all the tears have fallen, I have found myself stronger, more understanding to others in pain, and more willing to “be there” with help that is now “seasoned”.

    It is very easy to wallow in our pain. . for it is unbelievable that sorrow has poured down on us, leaving us in a pool on the ground. But in my better moments in the worst of times – in my deepest heart — I realize that I have grown and learned from adversity (though I know the word “adversity” does not cover what I have been through).

    And so – within me – that invincible summer makes me realize that I have learned more than I could have believed from the bad moments, and I can wallow . . . OR I can use what I have learned and every day help another through their own bad times. It is my belief and it is positive . . . and I feel that I have no time to waste as we have no idea what tomorrow may bring. I am not sure that I would put a word to it — like JOY — but it allows me to feel so upbeat, smiling, to know that I have done something – large or tiny – for someone else. It captures my mind and heart — takes my mind off an inner sadness.

    I believe that my own family early on were so alive and vital and – as I look back — they gave to others — and then gave some more. I DO know that we are able to turn the bad times, the bad years,around . . . by thinking and helping others. It lifts me to the skies.

    Always thinking of you, Joan

    • Hi Joan, I empathize with your comment that you’re not sure you would put the word joy to your feelings. It’s hard to make the shift when we are habituated to being constructive, or helping others. These feelings are good too. I only recently learned to add “joy” unabashedly to my vocabulary. And I do that because there is joy in the skies too. Therefore, it must be okay to feel joy in the sky of mind and heart. Blessings and joy to you! –Eileen

  4. My friend, Carol Fradkin, was inspired to write on the topic of Joy while she was volunteering at a cancer clinic in Nashville. Her book, which will be released next week, is a compilation of essays from friends, colleagues, etc on what gives them Joy and how they find it in their lives. I am honored to say that my essay will be included in her book; I hope the book speaks to you.

  5. Alice says:

    I love coming to your blog Eileen, you always strive to find the positive in the negative, despite a lot of personal worry and pain. Each time I visit my anxiety just disappears.

    I find joy in reading, and I’m trying to find joy in more places. I spend too much time dwelling on anxiety or negativity and I’m wasting life. Thank you for this post, it’s reminded me I need to look to the positive, it’s the best healer.

  6. Phyll says:

    Beautiful blog, Eileen. And, one that is much needed in today’s times. What, with the recent deaths of Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Lauren Bacall and others, who are much closer to our hearts, thoughts and discussions about joy is a welcome respite.

    Last month I had to say goodbye to my beloved pup, Sweetie Sue, and my kitty, Snookie. They filled my life with consummate joy and happiness for years. I miss them both more than word can say. Yet, deep inside, I know that they would want Mama to go on and look for the silver lining.
    Rest in harmony knowing our love will always be there, between us, for eternity. And, LIVE! Live life to the fullest today, tomorrow and every moment you’re alive.

    Loss is inevitable. Joy is forever.

  7. Thank you, Eileen, for revealing the human side of your family!

    Gracias, Eileen, por revelar el lado humano de su familia!

  8. martin rosen says:

    Joy is awaking each morning with another day as a personal gift.
    marty rosen

    • I couldn’t agree more – especially after Paul’s scare last January, and after losing my brother in June. May you see MANY more mornings Marty! Enjoy them all. Best to you and Joan.

  9. Darrel says:

    The losses by death I have experienced get put in perspective when the family gets together and shares the fun times we had with the decedant. Death is a sad time. Separation with someone that means a lot to you is traumatic. When I gave my grandfather’s eulogy, I choked up a couple of times. I was not embarrassed. I said that I was fortunate to have had a relationship with him that causes me to choke up. The events that help bring joy in a tough situation are almost always involve my grandkids. What is real is that it is those times of joy that would make it very difficult to be permently seperated from them. Heck, it is hard to leave them when I know I will see them again in a few months. But I would not miss the relationship just to avoid the hurt.

    • Darrel, I do think that we know joy better after feeling loss, or sadness. We need as many feelings as there are colors of the rainbow. They are what make us human. Stay open to them all…!

  10. Hi Eileen, Thank you for sharing so many thoughts during times, when sadness and anxiety clouded your days. You found a new breath for life and it captures your sense of the beauty of love, nature, uncertainty and all that is deemed to be important in one’s life. I like your photos, so sharp and clear, quick witted and intense! ( My digital Nikon seems to be slowing down and picking up invisible dusts bytes from an unknown somewhere. )

    “Joy to the world” is a big order. Bringing my sons into the world gave me true joy!!

    At the moment I am looking for something– perhaps, I should not look too hard and just “face the music and dance.” Joy to the seasons… summer is ending, again…

  11. I would say that we can’t force joy, but we can cultivate the space for it, like loosening the soil around a plant. It encourages it to grow into the space.Meditation or other ways of finding stillness can encourage such space. May joy fill in the space in your mind and heart.

  12. joan rosen says:

    Water brings me joy, whether at the beach, a stream, a pool –a powerful kinship in pure joy for this Pisces!. Joan Rosen

  13. Jacqui Meyer says:

    JOY … in traveling back to DC, which I left 3 years ago with heartache and sadness after my beloved died … and viscerally knowing that while he is no longer there, the many good memories made me smile away the tears. JOY … in my first solo travel since losing my best travel partner and finding that he travels with me everywhere. And discovering that I enjoy traveling in a different way, with the peace of my own company. The lotus is blossoming from the mud … JOY

  14. eileenrockefeller says:

    My dear lotus, you are indeed blossoming and I’m so happy to hear that you are finding joy. You deserve it! I’ll write off line soon. love, Eileen

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