March 18, 2014

Joy > Happiness

Joy is greater than happiness. Joy is a deep, abiding quality that needs only to be recalled, not conjured up. Happiness is elation, smiling so much your cheeks hurt as you witness a friend's joy & excitement over her bridal shower.
Happiness is well & good--but still a feeling. It ebbs & flows & some days it's eclipsed by stress ... but it's in the moments of breathing deep & pausing just a moment to allow your shoulders to recede to normal posture ...  before calling a patient to come back to the exam room & escorting them there ...  a smile not out of your own happy feelings, but God's work, spreads across your face as the little old lady wobbles forward, & you instantly tuck her hand through your arm.
It's in the pausing to smile up at a patient as they pay their copay & schedule a follow up, & they compliment you even though their eyesight is failing. "You have an Irish face", one sweet elderly woman told me a few weeks ago. Last week, not one but two kindly, elderly gentlemen told me I was a "Very pretty young miss."

There is bittersweet joy when you pause at the exam room door to ask a patient how his holidays went & he replies that they were "just okay. Y'see, these were the first without my wife. We would be married for seventy years." The wistful love written in the creases on his face, the pride in his voice as he tells me how she always made the holidays warm & lovely ... they simultaneously break my heart & make it glow. I know nothing of these patient's stories beyond these little things, & I can't help but wonder ... but a marriage of seven decades is something special, no doubt about it.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit--not a feeling. It is both as simple as that & multi-faceted as a diamond.