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,