Between Moments of Joy

28 Dec

i’m riffing off of LM’s post on contentment here.  i could so totally relate to it when she talked about growing up with the idea that one must always strive to be better, better, best.

i grew up with that too.  i like to say ~  “In my Dad’s eyes, i was only ever as good as my next accomplishment.”  And that’s the truth.

My mother was a fan of “just do your best,” which is less toxic, but not quite benign.  

i rebelled early, and worked hard at being an underachiever.  i used to say i wanted them to put on my tombstone:  “Failed to live up to early potential.”

Fortunately, an underachiever by my family’s standards was still acceptable to the rest of the world.  i didn’t have to become a homeless person living under a viaduct to achieve my goal.

i decided early, as a result of being an avid reader, that the secret to happiness was to live a good life.  Not “good” in a martyred self-sacrificing way, but “good” as in worthwhile, meaningful.

i still believe that ‘doing the right thing” leads to happiness in the long run.  So it’s not something to do for show or to be applauded for, it’s just what makes one happy over time.

Actually, i developed this belief clearly in my head at 15, after reading The Group by Mary McCarthy. If you’ve read it, you know that the only person who comes out of that with any kind of pleasure in her life is Polly.  She’s also the only one who thinks about anyone other than herself and  makes decisions based on any kind of values other than her own pleasure.

i decided i was going to live like that.

So i rejected my Dad’s standards of success.

For a long time i went with “doing my very best” all the time, but that’s exhausting too.  And really, not every single thing needs my best effort.  {i know, that’s hard to believe.}

And now i’m starting to sound preachy, and that’s not where i mean to go with this.

LM talks about “contenting herself with her lot,” and i just want to say NO.  i don’t thing that’s the road to contentment, not exactly.  

For me, contentment is what bubbles up between moments of joy.  

So the way to contentment is not to resign myself to what is, but to find the joy in where i am.  

My mantra has often been  ~ “Given that the situation probably isn’t going to change today, what do i need to do to be ok?”  “Given that those other people probably aren’t going to change, probably aren’t going to do what i want them to do, what do i need to do to be ok?”

It’s not passive, not being resigned.  It’s looking for ways to take care of myself and be ok in the moment.

Joy lives in the present moment.

So when i focus on right here, right now, i can find joy.

And when joy has dotted my day, contentment wells up in between, connecting the dots.

That’s what i wanted to say.

But don’t forget:

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.” And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. 

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. 

And how else can it be? 

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. 

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? 

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed withknives

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. 

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” 

But I say unto you, they are inseparable. 

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. 

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. 

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. 

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall. 

Khalil Gibran 

So joy comes with a price… but don’t we subs and slaves know that better than anyone?

12 Responses to “Between Moments of Joy”

  1. K December 28, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Contentment Explained

    by aisha.


    Your thoughts made me think, perhaps instead of being our “best”, sometimes we can simply just be.

    • aisha December 29, 2011 at 4:35 am #

      Funny, K….

      But yes, good point. i like that ~ just being. Which reminds me of something slave Drew, Ms. Constance’s slave, says often. He’ll say “Remember, you’re a human being not a human doing…”

      Thanks, K.


  2. sin December 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Maybe like living in the moment? Being present?

    • aisha December 29, 2011 at 4:36 am #


      Yes, absolutely – don’t you think?


  3. littlemonkey December 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    “So the way to contentment is not to resign myself to what is, but to find the joy in where i am.”

    This is what I was trying to get to, you put it so well. I was trying to say that I know, instinctively, that happiness is not passive or resigned, but because contentment and complacency are all mixed up in my head,I haven’t figured out how to achieve it. (there’s that word again). I need to nail down those definitions for myself.

    I love the riff, aisha. I love the whole idea of a conversation, that something I said resonates in some way with other people. Hearing other views helps me process.

    • aisha December 29, 2011 at 4:39 am #


      O, good, i’m glad this resonated with you, after i posted it, i was afraid it sounded too – i don’t know – too something.

      Anyhow, yeah. The things you say do help me think out my own thoughts on stuff, and i love that too. i think it’s such an important part of community.



  4. Alice December 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    “So the way to contentment is not to resign myself to what is, but to find the joy in where i am.”

    This resonated with me too. So perfectly and beautifully put, and I love that you say that contentment can be found where you are. So many people, so much in society tells us that contentment is found elsewhere, not in the present, but in this new thing or new person or new circumstance. Realizing that contentment is not about the next best thing, but in being joyful in the present is such a powerful, powerful thing.

    • aisha December 29, 2011 at 4:41 am #


      Yes, absolutely. We chase the idea of “if i just… then i’ll be content” and never get there. Often, we’re chasing some material thing or the other which for sure won’t do it.


      Thanks for commenting…


  5. Serafina December 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Hello aisha!
    I commend you for being so open, and so vulnerable. I enjoy your writings and I will be back to visit here when I am not working on our pages at

    This is what I am hearing from you. . .is this correct?

    Instead of always striving and struggling to meet or exceed other’s expectations, why don’t we settle for the best person I WANT TO BE?

    All my life and sometimes still I have tried to please others first. It goes hand in hand with our need to be submissive and our need for acceptance of and from others. And very often I found myself thinking and wishing for things and completely ignoring the wonderful things surrounding me. And now I think. . .what a waste of time I did. I try to remember that I need to stay in that NOW moment and thoroughly embrace and revel right here, right now.

    • aisha December 30, 2011 at 5:24 am #

      Hi, Serafina,

      Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment! I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

      Hope your work on your own blog is going well – i visited for a minute, it looks very interesting.

      I think certainly i would agree with what you say, both in terms of living up to our own expectations and about enjoying the present moment. i think i steer away from the whole “best” concept, even if it’s my personal best. i’ve become a fan of Winnicutt and the whole idea of “good enough.”

      But that’s a blog post for another day, right?

      Thanks again for stopping by – i’ll visit you,and hope to see you here again!


  6. vanillamom December 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Days late in offering a comment here, but i think you are spot on..contentment oozes in around periods of joy…yes…because we cannot live in abject sorrow all the time, nor can we successfully live fully high on happiness…contentment is the buffer zone betixt the two extremes.

    Gosh, i love your brain…!!

    Hugs and much love,


    • aisha December 30, 2011 at 5:36 am #

      Hi, ‘Nilla,

      i know your blog time’s limited these days ~ thanks for commenting! You know i love to hear your thoughts.

      And yeah, even with the highs and lows in TTWD, we can’t live there all the time…

      hugs and love back to you,


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