As a young girl I would spend a lot of time observing people’s reactions and behaviour. I’d observe the people around me and wonder who they were and what they were doing, and I couldn’t help but notice that they seemed to be taking life very seriously. Everyone seemed to lack any ‘Joie de Vivre’ for life!
As a child I soon learned from others’ reactions when it was OK for me to smile and when it was OK to laugh. Most of the time it seemed like I was expected to act serious but what I truly wanted was to shine and to show the world the natural joy living inside of me.
However, I started to live my life with this same intensity and seriousness. While I imagined my life as an adventure, in reality it was such a serious matter, and before long, living became something that I endured rather than enjoyed. I went to a Catholic school and life became even more serious, and it felt like the expectations of how to act, how to behave, intensified.
In this environment I learned how to ‘do’ things, how to get recognised for my achievements; it was all very serious and controlled.
It was only when I was by myself in my bedroom that I could really enjoy myself as I would imagine a world where everyone would be smiling and laughing and connecting with each other with such joy. Whilst this was my secret life, I felt it was the true me.
I had a similar experience with the Catholic Church, a place we would faithfully visit every week as a family. It was all a very serious matter – nothing to laugh about, and very few opportunities to be joyful, let alone shine when I felt to celebrate myself: no, I had to be serious in life and behave myself.
However, there was one part I remember enjoying: I loved sitting near the church organ when my mother sang in the choir. Later on this inspired me to sing in a choir as well. It seemed like it was one of the only places in the church where you were allowed to be joyful, but only if the joy was dedicated to something or someone outside of oneself. How could you be joy-full about yourself?
As a teenager I recall acting out with some rebellion in an attempt to reclaim the joy I felt I had lost in my earlier years. I moved out of my parents’ home and lived on my own, earned my own money, and did whatever I wanted. But this was all a bit of a disappointment really – lots of alcohol, one night stands, and a lot of hangovers were the result of having so called fun, but there was definitely no joy in any of it.
Then I met someone I felt I could trust. He was very playful and a perfect match for the joy I felt on the inside, but seriousness entered this relationship as well, especially when we got married and had children. We deliberately tried to raise our children in a different way…. but in truth, it was only a slightly different ‘flavour’ of seriousness, when compared to the experiences of my youth with the Catholic Church and their education system.
For our children we chose a Rudolf Steiner school and as a family we took on what they dictated, a way of life and how to act with our children.
At first we felt we embraced their philosophy, but in truth we were limited in the expression of our true selves and with taking on their ideals and beliefs, the seriousness of life was there again.
Now upon reflection I can see how I allowed the seriousness I felt in church and in the education system to pervade every part of my life in order to fit in and survive. This brings up much sadness in me as I know that seriousness in my life is the opposite of the joy I feel on the inside.
I have discovered that in each moment I have a choice to connect to the natural feeling of joy inside me, or to the seriousness outside of me.
Eight years ago I met Serge Benhayon – a living example of someone who is living his true self and shares the joy he feels inside with all equally. One thing I learned from him was the Gentle Breath Meditation, a simple tool to connect and stay with myself. Whenever I feel my joy is being suppressed, I choose to breath gently and connect with what I know is true.
Looking back on my life now as a 54 year old woman I can see that the big bubble of joy I feel inside me has been there all along and has been patiently waiting to come out and to be expressed in full in every minute of every day.
And I can say that I am ready, more than ever before, to show the world my joy – my Joie de Vivre! This joy is there to reflect to everyone in the world, to offer the serious people in this world an opportunity to connect with what is living inside them. Maybe they will choose to forget about their serious role or image and just allow themselves to be, just as children are when they are living in their natural joy and playfulness.
So on reading this blog if you suspect that you feel there is a seriousness in life, or that you can’t find the joy in living and it doesn’t feel quite right, have a look inside yourself – what is bubbling inside of you?
Perhaps, like me, there is a vast spring of untapped joy just waiting to be felt and expressed. Live in your fullness, in your ‘Joie de Vivre’ to feel and show the world all of who you are. The choice is yours!
by Annelies van Haastrecht, Warnsveld, Holland