(A letter sent to those on Joy Center’s snail-mail list.)
It’s not selfish to be happy. It is your highest purpose. Your joy is the greatest contribution you make to life on the planet. A heart at peace with its owner blesses everyone it touches. Alan Cohen
I was on a roll. I had just posted my latest blog entry hours before, an essay in which I mused about my next book project, “I’m Not Too Much For Me!!!!!!” and I was filled up with this topic, filled up with how much fun it was going to be to explore the notion of being full of oneself. And I was filled up with the excitement of the moment, too. I was off on a weekend adventure, off to Knoxville, Tennessee last Thursday evening to visit my son and his fiancé, to savor the color and the sunshine at the peak of a Blue Ridge Mountain autumn, to hear the latest on their upcoming wedding plans, to play with these two people who I adore.
So, yes, I was full of myself, full of enthusiasm, and vim and vigor as I stepped onto Plane Number Two at the Detroit airport, as I sat down in Seat 2A and buckled myself up for the short trip south. And it was in that state of mind that I met my plane mate in 2B, a man a bit younger than me with a strong British accent and a chipper chatty way about him. He traveled the world for business, was in the States these days more often than at his home in a small town north of London. And it didn’t take us long, two people who love adventure, both of us feeling good in this particular moment, to enter full-out into a buoyant conversation. Before we even left the ground, we were riding high as we shared travel stories, restaurant tips, our favorite destinations. And the conversation continued over the hum of the small jet’s engine as we made our way to Knoxville. It was in the midst of one of my stories, one of my best, as I told my British buddy about the time that my husband and I were on a trek high in the Himalayas when a tiger, or some other sort of a huge cat, crept into our campsite and grabbed the back pack right out from under our cook’s sleeping body. It was in that moment, as I was making my way to the story’s exciting part, that the woman in Seat 1B lifted herself up, looked around at us and whispered a harsh “shhhhhhhh.”
It’s not the first time that I’ve been told to hush my loud voice. I heard it often when I was a child. “You’re shrieking!” my mother would say. “Talk a little softer!” she’d remind me. We were a loud family, a family with big booming voices. And we were chatters. At least I was. My father playfully stuck one of those strips of raised letters that were popular in the late Sixties onto our phone. “Helen’s chatter phone,” it said. So it’s not like I’m blind to my impact. I know how to talk softly, how to soften my voice as I guide a session of yoga, how to whisper into my toddler grandson’s ear, how to listen to the silence and the sounds that rise up from the quiet of a wooded trail. AND, when I’m in certain mood, a full of myself mood and the energy is rushing through me at jet plane speed, it feels good to let it rip, to go for it, full throttle. It was like that last Thursday — the plane’s engine was so darn loud and our conversation was so darn fun and we really wanted to hear each other that it felt natural to be talking — or was I hollering?!? — at the decibel that apparently bugged the woman who was seated in 1A. And when she shhhhhhhed in our direction, British Buddy and I stopped the conversation, made little whoops faces, and then we continued. I think maybe I lowered my voice a bit — it was hard to gauge how loud I was talking with the engine humming in my ears — and I finished my tiger story and he shared his favorite stories and he told me the places he loves to eat in Knoxville and we laughed and we chatted and the shhhhhhhh was a mere blip in a high-flying trip.
So what am I trying to say? Am I trying to say that there will be times when we are having a big buoyant time being ourselves, when we are riding high on our high-flying plane, times when we are not too much for ourselves that we are going to be too much for the people around us? I think it’s inevitable. And there will be other times when those around us are too much for us. I want to be considerate. I really do. And yet, I know that we can’t control what other people think about us, how they respond to our behaviors and our beingness. And I know that we are here on earth in these bodies to enjoy the ride, to savor the energy, and yes to express ourselves with these voices, loud and soft, to share our stories, to open our hearts, to have fun. And that brings me to Joy Center, this place that I envisioned into being as a safe playground to experience the full gamut of who we are as creative beings, to experience our soft quiet wisdom and our loud foot-stomping joy, to share our stories and sing our songs and create our art, a place to be polished and to be raw, and, more than anything, a place where we can say, “I’m not too much for me!!!” and viscerally feel it as true.
So I invite you to peruse the brochure of upcoming offerings, offerings that speak to a wide-breadth of experience, and to find the ones that speak to you. You are always welcome.