Joy is best medicine for the broken-hearted

It would seem that “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion now sits at the top of my read list, up 60 rows from where it sat below “The Complete Bartender” by Robyn M. Feller.
Up until Jan. 19, I was entrenched in “The Sisters Brothers” by Patrick DeWitt, a novel that won its author the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction.
It’s an engaging story of two henchmen in the Old West pursuing their next target.
Today if you offered me $50/hour to finish off the last 109 pages of DeWitt’s book, I’d never see a dime of it. I’m too busy disliking everything about everything.
I may read the book of magical thinking tomorrow, but at this moment I’m surely wallowing in the dark Leonard Cohen hits and shovelling in as many bags of potato chips as I can muster.
And in fact, I became quite sick of myself today, wandering about this quiet house some 18 days post-tragedy with nothing better to do than stare out the window wishing for things I no longer could have.
I re-read Andy Rooney’s “My Lucky Life” speech from Oct. 2 of last year and rolled my eyes at how I’d spouted at the mouth in my column back then about my own life fortunes.
I also made the big mistake of watching the romantic movie “Love Actually,” which until Jan. 19 was one of my favourites. I might as well have stabbed myself in the eye with a kitchen knife than watch it by myself.
What was I thinking? Magical, that’s what. Yes, quite sick of myself today.
So mid-afternoon at the pinnacle of the Day 18 pity party, I got in my car, sped out of the driveway, and headed to town in a crying jag, passing an ambulance sitting stationary in the airport parking lot across the way.
No doubt there would be a patient inside in much direr straits than I. The sobering thought made me take pause from my wallowing.
I will admit that for the last 18 days I’ve not wanted to see any of my grandchildren. I couldn’t bear their optimistic and spirited attitudes to living a life when I was immersed in an unbelieving grievousness I never knew existed.
But today I’d tipped my cup. I had to shake myself off and find at least a little bit of balance.
Kahlil Gibran was right on the mark with his poem, “On Joy and Sorrow.” They are inseparable. While one sits on the edge of the bed, the other one is in bed with you.
I drove straight to the house where some little peppers lived because I suddenly needed their joy like a breath of fresh air in May. It was all I could do to get there in one piece.
I was sitting on the couch when my three-year-old beauty came running out of the kitchen with a red piece of construction paper on which she had drawn a picture for me.
She explained away the big sunshiny sun and a round blob with stick arms and legs and big eyes (me, she said) and a stop sign, all drawn in black marker.
Another nebulous figure, nearly invisible in red marker, had been drawn hovering over me. It was “Papa Jon.”
Gibran wrote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
The delight in that moment filled me up. Children should be seen and they should be heard when we grown-ups are sad.
This I know for sure.

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