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Day 47: The Joy of Disappointment

November 30, 2023

“How do you stay so joyful?”, asked a student.

“I don’t mind what happens,” replied the guru.

I am not like the guru. I NEED things to go a particular way or I get upset. 

This morning I joined a breathwork session as part of a membership I’m part of. The theme was “Letting Go and Rest”, and Lisa, who runs the sessions, spoke about Dhumavati – the Goddess of Disappointment – depicted as a wizened old crone, skinny, poor, elderly, she is the polar opposite of everything we think of when we imagine a goddess.

Lisa talked about how Dhumavati can be the gatekeeper to many of life’s gifts because the most valuable lessons about who we are and what life is about can only be acquired when we venture into the territory over which she presides. 

What does this have to do with Joy?

I’m so attached to the pursuit of success, the ideal outcome, the loving relationships, the healthy, happy life. I am attached to these things in a way represents what Buddhists would call “ignorance”. 

I have learned through experience that this attachment is unhealthy but, nevertheless, the attachment remains, making me reactive when people or things get in the way of these desires. I am put out and must talk myself down – manually override my instinctive response and “give myself a talking to” before I can “try and make the most it”. 

I’ve written about this idea before but, in the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, it’s a “slippery little sucker” and it’s one I have to keep rolling over and examining from different perspectives.

With nothing in life being guaranteed and nothing lasting forever, it seems joy can only exist if I’m equally willing to sit with Dhumavati as I am to sit with Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance. Of course, I don’t imagine myself sitting with goddesses either way but today they have helped me bring language to something that’s hard for me to make sense of.

Contemplating all of this during the breathwork session turned out to be enormously helpful this morning too. I had more jobs to do than usual this morning, for a variety of reasons, but it was also an early school start for my son, so I had less time to do everything – usually a recipe for a morning of huge meltdowns, fights and tears. 

But instead, I kept telling myself, “no matter what happens, it is good.” If my mind gremlins showed their teeth, I said, “no matter what happens, it is good”, and they started at me, all soft gummed and confused. 

I told my son I wouldn’t be able to chase him to get dressed or brush his teeth and if we were going to be late then so be it. 

For the first time in our seven years together, he was dressed, coat on, shoes on and waiting at the door for me when it came time to leave. 

I praised him and we sang and laughed on our way to school this morning. I imagine his day at school will feel vastly different than if he’d gone in with tear stained cheeks, already emotionally exhausted, and I know my day has been a pleasure to live, having started it this way.

Joy banked.

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