The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


A Quiet Joyful Girl

Lavender Leaves Henri Bendel candle

I spend too little time by candlelight. But tonight that soft flickering light, and music, seem like the only things that will ease the unexplained heaviness in my heart.

After returning from Chicago last Sunday, I spent the week holed-up in the house with my husband. We spent most of Monday in bed, having a lazy summer day slumber party. We've turned our days and nights topsy-turvy, staying up until 3:00 or later, and sleeping until after noon. We don't get a lot of time like this, with no responsibilities pulling us in different directions. But we're on vacation from work this week, and the only schedule we have to keep is our own.

We've been laid back and irresponsible all week ā€“ eating up the little food that was left in the house from before my trip, and then eating out or ordering in when we couldn't find anything left in the freezer. We need to go to the grocery store. We probably should do some laundry, and maybe vacuum. But we've been resting, and it was nice.

Now, I'm weary with resting. Too much inactivity makes me sluggish and sad. And tonight I definitely feel sad, even though I don't really know why. I've had plenty of together time with my beloved. And I've even had plenty of time to myself this week to pursue my own interests.

Something inside of me feels out of sorts. I don't like this feeling. When it shows up I always fear that it is a harbinger of more concrete sadness to come. I tried to shake it with a good dinner, conversation, and a glass of white sangria. But it lingers.

I felt melancholy like this a lot during my college days. I lit a lot of candles then. If they didn't cheer me up, at least they created a space in which I could acknowledge my feelings for what they are. Of course, you run the risk of wallowing when you do this. But sometimes it's all you can do.

I have two cats now, and don't bother to light candles very much anymore. The furballs are reckless, and I'm a bit forgetful, so open flames are an invitation for disaster. But a few weeks ago I splurged on a Lavender Leaves Henri Bendel candle for my office, the one room in the house that's off-limits to the kits. I only light it when I'm sitting at my desk, and have a contract with myself to blow it out whenever I leave the room.

So tonight I light the candle and listen to Ani DiFranco's "Joyful Girl," which came up in this session at BlogHer. Iā€™m only a casual Ani listener, and have always meant to listen more closely. The lyrics for "Joyful Girl" speak of confidence and joy, but when I listen to it, the song sounds sad to me.

This leads me to thinking about the basic difference between joy and happiness. Sometimes I think that true joy is something deeper, something separate from the emotion we identify as happy. Joy can be jubilant, but at its core it is rooted in a knowledge that transcends emotion. It has a solidity that isn't swayed by mere moods. It's a certainty and a comfort even when we feel unsure and sad.

I suppose each person must find her own joy, the foundation on which she can move and breathe and have her being. I'm only slightly surprised to discover that at the age of 31 I'm still seeking my joy, still working to build and strengthen my foundation. The younger me had hoped I'd have it figured out by now. But really, why should I be surprised? As I get older, I realize that there's no such thing as "finally" growing up. We grow and change, but it's never done.

I like the quiet joy of "Joyful Girl," but disagree on one point: "I know that there's no grand plan here/This is just the way it goes," Ani sings. Until recently, I might have agreed; I railed against the adage that "everything happens for a reason." Sure there's a reason, I thought, but only so far as the laws of cause and effect. I believe in a loving God who has given us freewill in the midst of a fallen world. As such, bad things happen ā€“ and God is not pleased with them, and neither should we be.

I used to be much more of a "when a door closes, a window will open" type of person. But the last few years of my life had made me cynical and bitter. Over the past few months, as I've slowly opened myself again to the beauty and mystery of the universe, I'm more inclined to think that our small lives are part of a grand plan. And for now, I'm trying to find the joy in that, even if it's a quiet, candlelit joy tinged with melancholy.

Joyful Girl ~ Ani DiFranco

I do it for the joy it brings
'Cause I'm a joyful girl
'Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it because it's the least I can do
I do it 'cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
'Cause I want to

Everything I do is judged
And they mostly get it wrong
But oh well
'Cause the bathroom mirror has not budged
And the woman who lives there can tell
The truth from the stuff that they say
And she looks me in the eye
Says would you prefer the easy way?
No? Well okay then
Don't cry

And I wonder if everything I do
I do instead
Of something I want to do more
The question fills my head
I know that there's no grand plan here
This is just the way it goes
And when everything else seems unclear
I guess at least I know

I do it for the joy it brings
'Cause I'm a joyful girl
'Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it because it's the least I can do
I do it 'cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
'Cause I want to

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