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EnJOY the Ride

In life you find pleasure. In life you find pain. Pain and pleasure is an example of the duality in life. Enjoy them both, they are part of the ride. The key is to not turn pain into something else . . . . regret." - J.R. Rim This quote resonates with me the most when I think about a rollercoaster like the one pictured above. I don't exactly love rollercoasters but I understand the draw to them. Riding up the huge incline, "dropping" down at 55+ miles an hour, and then whipping around a loop-de-loop can be exhilarating. However, how I feel afterwards is somewhat of a different story. Sometimes the nausea and dizziness (as well as the need for a trip to the chiropractor) is not worth the pleasure of the ride. Since turning forty ( or maybe it was thirty-five), I have come to understand that any pleasure from the ride will quickly turn into pain which will then inevitably turn into regret for ever riding in the first place! So I guess the real question that I have been trying to answer is . . . "How do I know how much pain is too much pain?" How many times do I stand in line and venture back onto the rollercoaster risking the accumulation of great amounts of regret? While I don't fully know these answers, I do know that carrying around regret is like carrying around a giant suitcase full of bricks. And when I have to carry around a giant suitcase full of bricks I tend to get tired. And when I get tired I start to get a bit annoyed. And when I get annoyed I start to get bitter. And when I get bitter I start to be resentful. The whole situation becomes a somewhat nightmarish version of the children's book "When You Give a Mouse a Cookie" . . . . . but I never actually get to eat the cookie! So I do know that regret is something that I need to avoid but I am also aware that it is impossible to completely avoid the pain that tends to lead to it. And so I have become convinced that there is an antidote that reverses the effects of pain before bitterness and resentfulness have the opportunity to creep in. This antidote has a name and its name is "joy". So all I have to do is seek after joy, right? Oh, do I ever wish it was that easy . . . . . but because there are so many different ways to "seek" after joy . . . . . and some of them never actually lead to true joy, it is not as simple as it sounds. Meet the "joyriders" . . . . . . The joy riders are the permanent roller coaster riders. In fact, they never step off the the ride at all. So one minute they are full of joy and excitement and the next they are full of fear and cynicism. When they are "on the way up" they are encouraging and inspiring to others but on the way down they will be sure to project their fears on others and their actions will tend to be unpredictable and oftentimes unhealthy. Beware of the joyrider's invitation to join them for they draw others into their own cyclical destructive behaviors. And the worst part . . . . . they never truly find joy . . . . . instead joy ends up being only a temporary and fleeting attempt to block out the inevitable downward plummet. Meet the "killjoys" . . . . . The killjoys believe that joy exists and feel that they most definitely deserve to obtain it. However, they can't seem to figure out how and it indefinitely remains an illusion. And as they are chasing the illusion they proceed to knock down everyone in their path. The killjoys do not believe that anyone else should experience joy if they are unable to obtain it themselves. In fact, their focus can sometimes be on making sure that everyone around them has even just a little less joy then they are currently experiencing. The killjoys also never end up experiencing true joy because all their efforts are placed on "equalizing" the world around them. Meet the "overjoyed" . . . . The overjoyed certainly stand out in a crowd. They always have a smile on their face. No circumstance or situation is too much for them to handle. Their "joy" is so great that it is what helps them remain positive even in the worst of situations. The problem is that the overjoyed manage to stay so bright and cheerful only because they believe that they are in control. Once they discover that much of life is truly out of their control they begin to question their own joy. Many who once were overjoyed become rather depressed and unmotivated. And . . . . you guessed it . . . . they never find true lasting joy. Meet the "joyful" . . . . . The joyful have something that most do not . . . .true and lasting joy. It is not something that they were born with, it is not something that they have to chase after, and it is most certainly not something that they feel they have to hold onto for dear life. Joy is something that "fills" them. It is not necessary for the overjoyed to "obtain" joy because it is already inside of them. When a fruit tree blossoms and fruit is produced, there is nothing that the tree has "done". The fruit "pushes" its way out of the tree. The tree doesn't have chase after or find its own fruit . . . . . the fruit comes from within. The joyful are much like fruit trees. They still have times when they look a bit "dead" (like a tree in winter) and they still have hardships and difficult situations to work through. But there is always something inside of them that will inevitably find its way "out" regardless of the circumstances. I have been them all at different points in my life . . . . . every single one. I have also been a victim of the schemes and traps of each one. I have at times felt like I was on a one hundred mile long downward rollercoaster plummet. And at other times I have been bound and determined to chase after what I was certain would provide lasting joy. I have been very blessed in so many ways but I have also been subjected to injustice and forced to carry blame and shame that did not belong to me. In both types of circumstances, it is only a true joy from within that can sustain me. Back in the day there was a man who endured more than most men could in ten lifetimes. He was ridiculed and shamed. He was sent on missions that were doomed to failure. He almost died multiple times and spent many years in jail for when he did not necessarily do anything "wrong". He was shipwrecked and outcast. His name was Paul and this is what he had to say even in the midst of extremely difficult and trying circumstances . . . . . " I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Paul experienced great pain but never allowed it to turn into regret and that is what led to a joy-filled life that blessed and encouraged so many others.

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