Is JOY a choice?

My hus­band, Bar­ry, is an avid hunter.  Every fall he is up before dawn and out after sun­set sev­er­al days a week in pur­suit of his tar­get, a freez­er full of veni­son. Bar­ry butch­ers his own deer, and our two dogs, Bax­ter and Max stay close by as Bar­ry dis­man­tles the car­cass for pro­cess­ing.  What they real­ly LOVE are the few choice morsels of veni­son they get as treats dur­ing the butcher­ing process.

Bax­ter and Max’s prize spoils from the hunt are the deer legs.  They chew on them and car­ry them around with pride to show off to vis­i­tors.  They guard them from each oth­er, from oth­er vis­it­ing dogs and even from any­one who comes too close. Part of the guard­ing rit­u­al includes steal­ing legs from each oth­er. Some­times Max has 3 and Bax­ter 1, oth­er times Bax­ter has man­aged to con­fis­cate them all and is lay­ing on all 4 with a big smile on his face. A smile that quick­ly turns into a growl if Max makes an attempt to res­cue his legs.

Over the years, I have adjust­ed to see­ing deer legs lay­ing around in the yard. What I haven’t adjust­ed to is night­time guard­ing. We live on 35 acres, sur­round­ed by even larg­er tracks of land. As a result, there are lots of oth­er crit­ters that would like to have a deer leg, most notably the coy­otes.  At night, the guard­ing rit­u­al clicks up a notch as the coy­otes come near the farm.  Near being a rel­a­tive term. The coy­otes take great plea­sure in sit­ting at the top of the hill about 150 yards above our creek view house.

With coy­otes’ present, the dynam­ics change quick­ly. Bax­ter and Max raise the hair on their backs, run about 10 feet from the house and bark like crazy.  If this pro­tec­tion rit­u­al hap­pened 3 in the after­noon, I’d be just fine with it. But of course, it doesn’t. It begins some­time after mid­night and can go on for hours.

Sev­er­al night ago, Bax­ter and Max got into an extend­ed coy­ote quar­rel.  At 12.30AM, they both start bark­ing. Bax­ter, the 12-year-old hound, gives up after about a minute. Max, the Ger­man Shep­ard, who just turned 18 months is like a wired teenag­er. He just keeps bark­ing.  By 12.45 I am angry. I get up, take my flash­light to the deck, call Max, shine the light in his eyes and tell him to be qui­et. Believe it or not, this has worked for me before. So, it’s not sil­ly to think it might shut him up again. At 1.30AM, it seems Max, like the teenag­er he is, has for­got­ten my request. I ven­ture out­side and repeat it.  At 3AM, Max is bark­ing like a crazy man again. This time I for­go yelling. I call him, put the leash on him and escort him to a stor­age build­ing for the rest of the evening.

Annoy­ing? You bet. When I sprang out of bed at 12.45, 1.30 and 3AM, I was super annoyed from the moment my feet hit the floor.  But then I walked out on the deck to call Max. The night sky was so com­pelling I stopped in my tracks and stood tak­ing in the splen­dor. No clouds, stars twin­kling in their night­ly cel­e­bra­tions. The con­stel­la­tion, Ori­on, the war­rior, was due south of the house in all his glo­ry. Tau­rus, the bull, was just to the left of Ori­on and the lit­tle dip­per hung del­i­cate­ly over the house. Mer­cury was shin­ing bright­ly in the west­ern sky. A stun­ning dis­play of grandeur.

Thank­ful­ly, with Max sequestered, I slept sound­ly between 3 and 6.30.  When I arose the next morn­ing, my hus­band, who can sleep through any­thing, was up with his cof­fee.  My first incli­na­tion was rant about the deer legs, Max’s bark­ing, and my lost sleep. But I made a dif­fer­ent choice.  Instead of com­plaints, I start­ed my day by telling Bar­ry that I had some awe­some news.  At 12.45. 1.30 and 3AM the night sky is amaz­ing! Breath­tak­ing in fact.  We both smiled and laughed. I also let him know that when he went out to feed the chick­ens, he’d find Max in the stor­age shed.

What hap­pened next was a gift. A gift from me to me. The grumpy me, the one that want­ed to com­plain about the lost sleep, the irri­ta­tion of the dogs bark­ing and the cold night, quick­ly fad­ed from my aware­ness. In her place was a joy­ous me.  I was filled from the inside out with joy.

Per­haps, just per­haps, joy is a choice.

What if the uni­verse is always con­spir­ing for my (and your) high­est good? I love watch­ing the night sky. In fact, I had been think­ing about how much I missed see­ing it. The best night sky views at the farm are between mid­night and 3AM. It’s not in my nature to set my alarm and get up to see the sky. So per­haps, the uni­verse, through Max, did that for me. 😊

What if every­thing I con­sid­er “neg­a­tive” is the seed of a gift? What if the uni­verse is wise? What if moments I might ini­tial­ly rebel against are actu­al­ly moments giv­en to me by a benev­o­lent uni­verse to help me become a bet­ter human. One with more patience, per­sis­tence, humil­i­ty, love, or wisdom?

And what if none of this were true, but I just pre­tend­ed it was true?  Might it change my day? My week? my year? The course of my life? I think so.

In my place of qui­et. In my moments devoid of fear and angst. In my com­mu­nion with spir­it. I believe all of my “what ifs” are true. The uni­verse is always con­spir­ing for my high­est good. The uni­verse is kind and benev­o­lent. There is a seed of a gift in every expe­ri­ence. It is up to me to choose my fil­ter.  My per­cep­tion. My joy.

Wow. Now I have done it.  No more com­plain­ing about the poi­son ivy on my red and itch­ing wrists. What is the gift of poi­son ivy?  And where is the joy?  I’ll have to work on this one! What if I fall short, look­ing to find joy in every­thing? That’s ok. I’ll still find a lot more than if I wasn’t looking.

To your prosperity,

To your joy,