When Joy was a little girl her mother was very sad. She wanted to make her happy so she laughed and danced and told stories and drew pictures. But still her mother was sad.
As she grew, she kept trying to make her mother happy but nothing she did seemed to work. Her mother would only yell at her and tell her to stop being so silly, so loud, so childish. She didn’t understand. She was just being herself. She just wanted to make her happy. Not mad. Not sad. Not angry.
She thought it was her fault that her mother could not be happy. She thought she was the one who made her so sad.
And she felt sad too.
But that was not allowed. Be happy, people said. You’ve got a roof over your head. Food on the table and clothes on your back. Be happy.
So she was.
On the outside.
But inside she carried the secret guilt of being the one who could not make her mother happy. Inside, she carried the secret shame that it was all her fault.
She grew up and moved away and got married and had children and a career and did all kinds of things to make the world a better place. And still she felt sad inside.
And nobody knew. She could not speak the words that would name the guilt she carried, the shame she harboured deep inside her.
Until one day, she looked outside and saw the rain and clouds and heard the thunder roaring and felt the sadness inside roiling up as if it would drown her. She was scared. Frightened. Lost. She did not know what to do.
“Stop lying,” a voice from deep within the well of her sadness whispered.
She stomped her foot and put her hands on her hips and angrily replied, “I am not a liar! That’s not who I am. I’m a happy person who doesn’t lie.”
The voice inside laughed. “Really? That’s hard to believe ’cause from where I sit inside you, it looks really, really dark. Stop lying.”
She got even angrier and very slowly repeated. “I a-m n-o-t a l-i-a-r.”
Again the voice inside laughed. “Harrumph. I didn’t call you a liar. I just said you’re lying about the truth inside you. Think about it. You look all sunny and bright on the outside and feel all dark and gloomy on the inside. When the outside is not a mirror of the inside, one of them is not true. Which is it?”
The question surprised her. She didn’t have an answer.
“I don’t know,” she whispered.
“Then perhaps it’s time you found out.”
“But what if I don’t know how?”
The voice inside gave a little chuckle. “You humans. You think the answer always lies in the how when what you really need is to understand the what. Do you want to be happy or sad?”
“Happy of course,” she replied.
“Then there’s your answer. Now you know the what, keep digging into what keeps you from having it. If you want to be happy and feel sad inside, ask yourself, what can I do differently, and then do it.”
“I’d rather you give me a manual that tells me how to do it”
“There is no manual. You are the how. You are the manual. You are the way. It’s what you do that makes the difference.”
Joy looked inside and saw the tiny light of hope starting to flicker.
“It doesn’t look as dark inside,” she whispered to the voice.
“What does that tell you?”
“It tells me that no matter what, I need to do whatever it takes to keep the light burning brighter.”
“Then do it.”
And so she did.
And Joy became the light of her life shining from the inside out.
And guilt and shame got lost in searching for more fertile fields to plough.