Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Deserving of Joy

"People need joy quite as much as clothing. Some of them need it far more."
Margaret Collier Graham, 1906

Last week I had a very sad experience at the library. It is a treat for me to visit the library because when I lived in our home, we were out of the city limits and did not qualify for a library card unless we purchased one for about $200.00 a year. So, once we moved to the apartment, which is in the city, I obtained a FREE library card. I've gone a couple times now and have been amazed at the great DVD collection available. There isn't much down time in my life, so I've just gotten a nice selection of knitting and craft books to browse through so far.

During my last half hour library visit, I caught myself thinking about how happy being in a library makes me, along with bookstores. I love being surrounded by books. They comfort me. Maybe this goes back to my childhood when I often escaped the turmoil of my youth by reading. It probably makes sense that I have amassed a large library with 12 large overstuffed book cases surrounding my living room. I put a lot of furniture into storage when I moved but most of the books came with me. Maybe surrounding myself with books is my attempt at feeling safe and secure.

Anyway, I was happy and content in the library. Feeling a few moments of pure escapism pleasure. I felt good even just looking around at the other patrons. Then I noticed a lot of the library employees were women my age or older and my mind ran away with the fantasy that for my next career, I'll go back to the community college for a library assistant certificate. I was really having fun with that, imaging my boys in college and me happily working and content in a little suburban library.

And then it happened. This horrible voice came in and interrupted my fantasy. It growled, "You have no right to feel happy right now. Your life is a mess. You're struggling to pay your bills and feed your children. You need to feel as bad as your life is right now. And dreams of ever working in a library? Are you kidding? You don't even have a job. You need to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep pounding the pavement. You don't deserve such a frivolous job anyway!"

And just like that, my good mood and happy outlook disappeared and I was back to worrying about the bills, food and job. Then I was even upset with myself for having those few moments of contentment.

I think what happened here is that when you're down and out, it becomes very easy to see yourself in a negative way. You're already feeling desperate and lousy about your situation and society casts its disapproving eyes your way as well. You start believing that you're a rotten person for being in the position you have landed, and the next logical thought is that you're as bad as your situation. And bad people don't deserve happiness or bits of joy in their lives. Only the well-to-do housewives down the street deserve it because they aren't facing adversity.

Of course, this whole train of thought and its premise are nonsense. If anyone needs and deserves some happiness and diversion it would be those who are suffering or going through a hard time, like me. It is just interesting to see how easy it is to get swept down into the mire and to stay there because of thoughts like these. Those who are suffering have so many challenges to face including this one - the ability to see oneself as having value and worth, deserving of some happiness, leisure and fun even while wading through the muck of despair.

I am grateful:

1. For the smell and sounds of spring in the air.
2. For rain instead of snow.
3. That my flat tire on the second car only needed to be inflated, not changed, hopefully buying me a few more weeks until I am more able to afford new tires.
4. That I caught a break at the eye doctor when they sold me a box of contacts for my son even though he needed a new exam and their policy required the exam for me to get the contacts - because they don't accept any insurance and right now I can't afford the exam charge. This will hold us until I can find a new place to go that is more affordable for eye care.
5. For highlighter pens in bright colors way beyond that initial yellow.


  1. try to ignore that voice that puts you down. go back to college and get your masters in library science and get your dream job. or if you qualify for the library assistant certif. program, go do it. we all have our demons to fight. bash yours with a book. it would be a job that would make you happy. waitress if you have to, but don't stop yourself from trying for what you want. you can look up the online schools for the certificate and do it from home. i hope you chose to.

  2. Thanks wNs! I'll play around with this. I already have a master's and don't want another so the certificate would be just fine for me. Maybe this summer when I've been on the new job awhile and feel more settled and in control. I think they offer online classes at the community college. But first things first. There is a lot on my plate right now. I won't stop dreaming though!

  3. Could you try to get a job in a bookstore? It is a blessing when you *know* that there is something you enjoy, that makes you feel good.... wouldn't working in a bookstore do that for you every day? (I know it isn't your line of expertise, but you might love it!)

  4. Anonymous - Before I took the job at the big box store I applied at all the local bookstores. But the recession has hit hard here - no openings, etc. I also wasn't hired at McDonald's or any food place I went to. Also applied as a waitress with no results. I'm going to check into the library courses in the community college catalog and shoot for a class this summer. It'll be something to look forward to. And if not this summer, then in fall.

  5. It is sad that at times our worst critics is ourselves. I find myself doing this all the time. Even if I know that logically I deserve a little bit of happiness, if only for an hour, I later tell myself it could have been better spent. As parents this becomes a problem. We tell ourselves to put the kids first, but if we don't treat ourselves well, then we have less to give.

    I think we should have a mantra about replenishing our reserve. "If I don't refuel, I will run out of gas." "If I don't feed myself, I will won't have enough to offer." Get the idea? I could probably go on forever, as I can get a bit obsessive.

    I'm thinking that once a job comes your way you will feel better about fantasizing about the next phase. I think it's fine to do both now.

  6. I so hate those negative voices that come into my head. I find myself all quiet and staring off into space as I listen to them and then days and days of depression over what they said. How can we keep them away? They are meant to destroy. Any why are they voices that always tell me how stupid I have been. I want to replace them with positive words, but it is hard to do. A constant battle.

  7. Dan - Great mantra! I need to adopt this in my life, especially as an only parent.

    Jude - I am so sorry you sometimes hear negative voices too. I think all of us do, some more than others. And some are better able to bat those voices away. For those of us that have a harder time, we undergo that constant battle like you said.