I have spent far too much time in the last two months sitting in the houses of sorrow and fear. I have been sorrowful over the choice our country made in the last election. I have felt heavier spiritually and unable to participate fully in my church meetings or to love fully my neighbors, family, and friends.
This new year, I have felt spiritually commanded to move to the house of joy, which is the house of God. Joy is not mere happiness, which is fleeting. Joy is about feeling purpose and confidence in changing the world for the better. Joy is about seeing the connections I have to others and accepting that these connections can bring shared sorrow, but that bearing it together is part of the meaning of life. Joy is honesty and not pretense for the sake of a false peace. Joy is seeing that things are wrong and knowing that they can be made better.
In order to spend more time in the house of joy, my New Year's resolution for 2017 is to spend time every day:
1. Reminding myself what my purpose in life is (to help others, to uplift those who are sorrowing, to be a light, to find truth, and to write authentically and courageously).
2. Reviewing each day to find the moments when I fulfilled my purpose and felt that God accepted this offering as enough.
3. Holding close to the truth that no matter what evil may happen, I am part of goodness in the world.
Sitting in the house of joy doesn't mean that I'm ignoring my own pain or the pain of others. Pretending to be happy helps no one, despite the 'fake it til you make it mentality." I don't believe in lying. Lying doesn't make the world a better place, nor does feeling resentful toward others who want you to pretend. Happiness is not the same as joy. While there is nothing wrong with the goal of happiness, it feels shallow to me without embracing joy more fully, which includes all real emotional responses.
Joy is making use of pain in order to make purpose into action. Sitting in the house of joy doesn't mean that I shrug my shoulders and say "God will make it come out right." There are things that are God's responsibility and there are things that are our responsibility. Sitting in the house of joy means seeing my responsibilities and accepting them, believing that I have power and that this is what was meant to be.
On the other hand, sitting in the house of sorrow was a place where I felt helpless and alone. I was weighed down by the many mistakes I had made in the past, the many times I had not been "good enough" or "wise enough" or "persuasive enough." In the house of sorrow, you are never enough and you are perpetually measuring yourself and falling short. It is an expansive house, with ceilings that never end and spaces so big you will never meet anyone else there, even if you hear them weeping in the distance.
Sitting in the house of fear meant thinking a lot about a terrible future that might or might not be coming, worrying over my children as they move into adulthood and have to face the cold, cruel world. The house of fear is a terrible place. It is full of cries and screams. There are many corners, and behind each of them is a new terror. It is a place where I do not matter because I am too small and insignificant in the world, and whatever I do will be swept away by evil.
One of my favorite Mormon scriptures is, "Adam fell that men may be, and men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2: 25). In The Book of Mormon, one of the most important stories is that of Lehi's vision, in which Lehi sees a beautiful tree with fruit on it and when he partakes of that fruit, "it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy" (1 Nephi 8:12) and he immediately wants to share this fruit with his family because he loves them.
I, too, want to share more joy with my family. That is my hope for the New Year. Let us all embrace the fullness of life, and find joy in truth and connection.