Finding Joy

I’ve been sacrificing a lot of sleep lately. I understand that it’s a temporary situation. Working a full time job, a couple of part time jobs and launching a new business all at the same time comes with a price. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.

In fact it’s a price I’ve been willing to pay for the majority of my adult life. The only difference now is that I finally feel like the prize is within reach. I’m not just spinning my wheels and staying busy, I’m empowering myself. I’m creating the life of my dreams! We are creating the life of our dreams.

Sunday morning I woke up with eight full hours of sleep for the first time in what seemed like months. I looked outside and saw that it was a perfectly clear morning and that it was about 70 degrees. I knew instantly that I was about to have my most joyful bike ride of the summer. Lately I’ve been finding joy in so many places. I love riding my bike. The problem is that I also love my yoga practice and I love practicing my martial arts forms in the park or on the beach. At my age, I have to make some tough decisions about how to manage my “body time”. I can’t always do everything I want from both a time and an energy standpoint. Some mornings I ride my bike 12 miles to work just to kill two birds with one stone: my commute and my workout all rolled into one.

But on those days I have to carry all my “stuff”. Mornings like Sunday when I can just go out with my water bottle and iPod are few and far between and very precious. As I started my ride, I knew it was going to be special. I felt like I was gliding through the trails in the park behind our home with grace and power. I thought to myself, “How nice that I have the wind at my back to start the ride. I’ll have to make sure I conserve enough energy to ride into the wind on the way home.”

After a few miles I came out of the park and merged on to Lincoln Avenue and its generous bike lane. As I passed a row of flags blowing in the wind I realized I’d actually been riding into a headwind to start my ride. I thought to myself, “So this is what it feels like to be well rested!” I instantly revised my plan to ride 10-12 miles and decided I’d ride 15-20! This opened up the possibility of heading to the lakefront and making that a segment of the journey. I was so excited!

The lakefront was crowded on that beautiful morning. I had to navigate through more people than I might have preferred but the backdrop of the water and the parks was worth the decrease in miles per hour rate. I found myself wondering if the Jim of two years ago would have felt the same way.

As I road past Belmont Harbor I noticed a sailboat heading out to the lake. It was such a beautiful frame that I thought for a minute that I should stop and take a photo. I didn’t.

Next I came up past Edgewater Beach. I rode my bike off the path and stopped where the beach started and the park ended. I needed a bit of water and a minute to savor the scene. Once again I thought it was so beautiful that I should take a photo, but that would have meant taking my phone out of the arm strap carrier and disconnecting my headphones. Too much trouble. Too much time.

From Edgewater beach I turned inland and started to head west towards our home. I was about 15 miles into the ride at that point and I needed to start thinking about my lunch date. The fastest route home would have been Peterson but the traffic is heavy on Peterson and it is not scenic. I decided to ride on some of the side streets and as I rode south on Ravenswood I came across an urban garden that was so beautiful that I finally heard the message and I finally stopped and took my phone out of the arm band, disconnected the headphones, and snapped a photo.

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After I took the photo and suited back up to ride I realized that the best route home would be to cut through Rosehill Cemetery. The back entrance of the cemetery comes right off Ravenswood and points directly towards Western Avenue which would be the final leg of my journey home. As soon as I rode through the gate to the cemetery the purpose of my morning became clear to me. The level to which that purpose would inspire me was yet to be determined.

Once again I saw a scene that was so beautiful that I had to stop and pull my phone out of the arm band to take a photo. The scene was a row of identical headstones all adorned with little American flags. The sunlight was perfect. The sky was so blue. The tree framing the shot was magnificent. This time I didn’t bother to put the phone back in the arm band. I suspected there were more scenes in the minutes ahead. I was right.

I’ve always loved cemeteries. I love the energy. I love the history. I love the architecture. I love the connection to Mother Earth.  For some reason I’ve never seen cemeteries as ending points, but rather as finish lines. I feel that way now more than ever.

As I continued through Rosehill Cemetery I saw obelisks that reached high toward the heavens with pointed tips. I saw celtic crosses. I saw stars of David. I saw trees and flowers. Eventually I reached the intended destination for my morning even though I had no idea it would be my destination as I set out on my journey a couple of hours earlier. My destination was the Rosehill Mausoleum.

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We have a friend that had been buried there over two years ago and even though I have lived within a few minutes of her final resting place, I had yet to visit. I walked into the mausoleum and looked for the office so I could figure out where her plot would be. I wasn’t really thinking I could wander around the halls of a mausoleum of 43,000 souls and find the one I was looking for. Or could I?

After searching for an office in all the obvious places I decided to go back outside and see if I could find a groundskeeper to assist in the task. I found one and learned that the office was back at the entrance off of Rosehill. My first reaction was “Oh crap, I have to go all the way back over to the other side of the cemetery.”

But then I realized I didn’t have to go back across. I could choose to go back across and experience all the beautiful things I just saw one more time. That’s what I chose to do.

After riding back across the cemetery I entered the office and met two kind men. They told me a good bit about the history of Rosehill and gave me directions to get to my friends plot in the mausoleum. I was getting really excited now. This little idea was turning into a great adventure!

Once again I rode across the cemetery grounds and drank in the sunlight, the scenes, and the energy. I pulled my bike up to the front of the mausoleum and locked it to the fence for the third time. I entered the halls of the final resting spots of over 43,000 souls with one particular soul in mind. I had a piece of paper in my hand with the hall number, section number, and the row number. I figured I would easily find the location and finally lay my hands on the stone that marked the home of my friend. Turned out I would be wrong about the “easily” part.

I went down the stairs to the newer level of the mausoleum as I was instructed to do. I wandered around lost and in the dark struggling to find any markings at all. I started to get frustrated and realized time was running out on me. I had a noon lunch date downtown and it was going on 10:30 am. As I rushed around some of the most amazing family plots and stained glass, my eyes scanned all the names hoping I might find the name I was looking for. I was starting to feel defeated. Maybe it wasn’t meant to happen on this morning.

This friend that I wanted to visit this morning died a bit over two years ago and was buried on Valentine’s Day 2013. She had one of the biggest hearts I had ever known. I was in the room when she crossed over. My hands were on her. I could feel her soul leave her body when she left. It was one of the more remarkable experiences of this lifetime for me. In many ways I am still processing and learning from the experience.

So there I was this Sunday morning, in the basement level of the mausoleum, trying to decide what to do. I clearly didn’t have time to ride my bike back across the cemetery to the office for more information. I looked at the notes in my hand one more time. I saw the hall number, the section number, the row and letters “CL”. I was totally stumped. I decided it was time to give in for now and go get ready for my lunch date with an important friend. I was temporarily defeated. It would be a different day that I would cross this finish line. So be it. I stopped micromanaging the outcome that this had to happen today. I live less than a mile from Rosehill I could return as early as the next morning.

As I started my ascent back to the main level of the mausoleum I saw a sign that said “This way to Chapel Level (CL)”. My heart began to race with a sense of immediate understanding. I charged up the stairs and looked for the newest area of the mausoleum – an area that might have had burials within the last few years. As I walked down what looked to be a relatively bright and new corridor. I glanced up and saw a number
of unused plots with no names. Then I glanced down and I saw the name that I had been seeking all morning, even long before I knew I was seeking it. And at that moment I knew I had found what I had been looking for in a place that I never knew I would be looking when I woke up in the moring. After two years and five months I had reconnected with the big hearted soul that I had been missing for all too long.

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I had crossed another finish line, just like the 43,000 souls that rest in this sacred place. In a literal sense, on this amazing morning when I stopped to smell the roses, when I stopped to take a photo, when I finally made time for an old friend…I had truly found my Joy.


 

Where will you find your Joy today, joyseekers? You may find it in the most surprising places if you’re ready to take a little extra time and experience with an open mind and open heart.

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5 thoughts on “Finding Joy

  1. i thoroughly enjoyed reading about your beautiful morning and the experiences you encountered along the road to finding Joy. It made my morning shine a little brighter. Life is an adventure that needs to unfold with our intuitive soul more often than not. It is when we allow ourselves to listen to our inner voice and open our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us our true world comes alive!! Thank you for reminding me with your story. I’m off for a walk and yoga near the river:)

    • Wow Laura somehow in the sea of other posts I missed this. Love you for your comments and thoughts and feedback. Many thanks. Jim