Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Joy

There's an old pilots expression "No Joy" which means "No contact" or "action unsuccessful" depending on the context.

I have a problem in my life... one I suspect I share with a lot of folks out there.

Other than my wife and kids, I have no joy in my life.

Or perhaps it's better put that while there is joy in my life, I can't see it; or I can't reach it.. or the action is unsuccessful... thus the phrase is both literal, and appropriate in its military context here.

Oh, I have fun sometimes, and I have satisfactions. I get satisfaction from my job; when the bureaucracy can be thwarted enough so I can actually do it. I have hobbies, and interests, but I'm rarely able to pursue them between money and time consideration. I love my friends, and have some fun in spending time with them. I love my kids, my wife, my dogs... but the joy in them is tempered with care and responsibility and worry.

I'm not depressed by any means. In fact I don't think I ever really have been depressed in the way most people mean. Misery, melancholy, and despair are just not in my nature. Also, I'm not "unhappy" in a general sense. Sure there are specific things that I'm unhappy about; but I love my wife and kids, I like my job, and in general my life is just fine (if a bit boring... by my standards anyway. Other people tell me my life is soap operaish, but you don't really see it that way from the inside. My standard of "not boring" is almost dying on a regular basis).

I just have no joy.

I've lived this way before, for years at a time sometimes (and worse, no joy, and being alone); but some years ago I decided I wasn't going to do that any more. Life isn't life without joy.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it; but I am going to do something.

There are many things I COULD be taking joy in, were it not for the pressing cares and burdens of my life. I used to take great joy in shooting, driving, flying, boating, hiking, reading, music, and movies... now at best they are a relief, not a joy.

It's a bit hard to explain, but it's kind of like chronic pain. If you live your entire life with pain at level 4 or 5, going down to pain level 1 or 0 is a tremendous relief; but it's the absence or lessning of, or relief from, pain and stress; it's not truly joy.

Even typing this, it feels something= like "Poor poor pitiful me"; but it's surprisingly wearing supporting four on a single income (even if that income is substantial); helping my mother out, dealing with Mels family, dealing with the legal issues, dealing with the stress of work, trying to improve our life together, and find the money to pay for it all...

I'm not one of those to go hermit, but I need some simple joys.

There's always my kids of course, but tempered with that joy is always the responsibility, and the care, and the worry (and yes the aggravation and the irritation). It's a duty and responsibilityI gladly bear, but you can't just throw it all away, and that's the kind of joy I need.

Maybe it's an odd quirk of my own psychology, but the second something becomes a duty, it is no longer a pleasure.... maybe I'm saying that wrong. When there is an expectation attached to a pursuit, other than my own internal expectation, then it is no longer strictly a joy for me; even though I may enjoy it.

I HATE having my vacations and weekends scheduled. I can't rest I can't relax. It's no vacation if I HAVE to do it.

I need to have something I have the freedom to enjoy or abandon as whim strikes me. I need to have something that excites and energizes me. I need to have something that is stress relieving; but is not only stress relief.

I need to ride motorcycles again, or fly, or fly RC airplanes, or build things, or do something that is nothing but fun (I have a very different definition of fun than most); and I need to be able to enjoy that fun without worry or care, at least for a time.

And no, before you ask, shooting doesn't do that for me. I love shooting, I have fun shooting, I get tremendous satisfaction and stress relief from shooting; but it isn't joyful (except in certain limited circumstances, like my first 1000 yard group, or achieving a goal I haven't reached before, or blowing things up with guns and explosives).

I guess the first step is to try to reduce some of the burden.

We're working on it. The legal bills have destroyed us financially for over three years now, and will be doing so for a while yet. I suppose that is our biggest burden.

Taking care of the kids, I've never seen as a burden, nor providing for the family. A sacred duty, and the only thing I really take joy in now, even if it is tempered; but not a burden.

My mother... oy... I'm not even going to talk about that anymore.

Mels family... well they aren't as bad as mine at least.

Other than getting the legal bills out of the way, I think lessening the burdens isn't going to be too productive in the next few years. Over time they may work themselves out, but there's nothing I can really do about them right now... not and live with myself afterwards anyway.

So I guess I'm just going to need to find some way to wrest joy out of the jaws of the grinder of life.

Wish me luck.