Over the course of my life I have tended towards melancholia. There have been times when I embraced that as a personality trait that has certain benefits that only other melancholics can understand, even though it is not a personality trait that the world celebrates. There have also been times that I hated it about myself and wished I could just be a “normal, happy person.” Whatever that means.
And I have always found it easy to express sadness in a way that other people understand and resonate with. If I am wrestling with a hard thing it is easy, natural even, to convey my experience to others.
I have a harder time with joy. Joy is a river in me that flows as swiftly and as deeply as the other. But it is a secret well. If I want and tell someone, all of my words disappear into the air and I am left mute. I can contemplate it. I can feel it. I can dance in it. But I can’t say it.
I see things that God is doing and everything within me leaps and expands. I am filled with wonder, peace, awe. I observe and I remember. It is a ribbon of remembered joy that connects my self of yesteryear with my self here, now, that is experiencing a new joy. It is a running narrative absent of language.
I think of St Luke, the only gospel writer who told, in detail, Mary’s story of Christ’s birth. A few decades later, after Jesus has returned to heaven, it is recounted so freshly. At the end of the story Luke writes, ‘but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.’
I know what that means.