Last week, at WOMADELAIDE (a nearly annual pilgrimage) I spent three days listening to world music in Adelaide’s beautiful Botanic Park. The weather was delightful, the breeze cool, the food delicious and the music wonderful. I reconnected with old friends; I swayed with delight listening to Toumani and Sidiki Diabate, I sang along to Black Boys on Mopeds with Sinead O’Connor and I lay down for an hour and let the music of The Gloaming reduce me to joyful tears.
Within an hour of my return I was in a state of deep flow in a basket weaving class guided by my dear friend Ann Evers. I learnt about the story telling of basketry; learnt about how plants and grasses from my local environment could be woven to create functional and beautiful items. I wove into my basket, farewell kattaks from Nepal and Tibet and a silk scarf over 35 years old that I bought in New Zealand. It was hand printed, a serene and delicate mint colour and had become brittle with age but I could not bear to throw it out, so I combined it with bells and reeds to make a very wonky but happy looking basket.
All this loveliness and I hesitated to write about it because I felt a bit guilty! Guilty for owning up to this seeming sustained self indulgence. I felt like I should somehow justify it by sharing that I had a great need for something nice after a period of hardship. Perhaps I should itemise all the challenging things that have cropped up. Perhaps I need to state that I am totally aware that the world is full of bad things and that having this joy doesn’t minimise my knowledge of that. Why do I think this? Why is joy sometimes accompanied by a sense of…guilt?
The other thing I noticed has been so wonderfully described by Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection. She writes: Joy and gratitude can be very vulnerable and intense experiences. We are an anxious people and many of us have little tolerance for vulnerability…we think to our selves I’m not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won’t last; or Acknowledging how grateful I am is an invitation for disaster.
I know as I lay there, feeling the power of the music of The Gloaming, tears of joy quietly rolling down my face, there was indeed that tiny little voice saying Yup and ain’t you going to come a cropper after all this loveliness? And I realised that Yes, I might. I might be diagnosed with a terminal illness; the plane might drop from the sky on the way home; my hearing might finally give up its tenuous hold on usefulness and call it quits. Any number of disasters could befall. But whether they happened in the future or not, right then and there, in that moment, I was experiencing joy. I could miss it worrying by the future mights, or I could enjoy it. And the memories of experiencing that joy could sustain me and give me resilience to face what comes.
So I did. Experienced joy. Grinning like an idiot. Counting my blessings – the dappled sunlight, the music, men with the voices of angels, the ears to hear it, the lovely bloke lying next to me (making it work!), gluten free cider….