The name “Chasing Joy” came to me one day years ago watching butterflies playing among the hollyhocks in our front garden bed. Julia was leaning over the porch rail trying to catch a butterfly that caught her eye and I remembered when she discovered butterflies. We were living in Indianapolis when she first came home from China and we spent days at White River Gardens. During the butterfly show, she would run and skip along the paths in the Hilbert Conservatory trying to catch, to touch, to get close to the magnificent insects cavorting amongst the exotic plants. It was a joyful chase, not really about catching but about the chase, the play.
That first season home after Julia’s adoption was hard. Julia’s behavior was incredibly challenging. She spoke no English and was more stubborn and willful than any human I had ever met. The “experts” told us that her behavior was normal and our concerns were unwarranted. We knew they were wrong but we were ill equipped to DO anything but love her. And love was not enough. But for all of the worry, it was a time of joy. Julia, our wished for, hoped for, dreamed of second child was home! Our house was full of kid equipment and kid food (albeit Chinese) and kid energy. The time was glorious!
And I was learning an ambiguity. I had been a performance artist and a lawyer who worked with incarcerated men. My partner, David, was a writer. We thought we knew a lot about uncertainty and ambiguity and resilience.
With a big smile on my face, I type: We knew nothing!
The ambiguity that we were learning with Julia was deep and wide–the Pacific Ocean of ambiguity. There was so much we could and did worry about but it did not prevent us from chasing the joy in our everyday life. It wasn’t quite a conscious intention at the time but I was learning that it could be. Not mindless happiness that blocks out reality and probabilities or happiness that is easily reached for amidst a happy life but a joy that comes from digging deep and basking in gratitude for the day.
After my partner, David, died, I could not choose joy for a long time, let alone chase it. Almost six years post death, I still have days when all I want is to have my old life back. However, after a time, there was the possibility of being grateful for daughters and friends and community I had, and I realized that I was nurturing renewed purpose. And then there was joy to choose. Very intentional this time.
And the intention for the rest of my life is to choose joy every day. To chase it like that butterfly. Ever in the present, with those I love alongside, all over the world and until I am very, very old.