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This article was published in Sage Woman's Issue 71 The Healing Power of Happiness On February 19, my husband's fraternity brother Steve died of pancreatic cancer. Over the decades they had remained close, and I'd grown to love him too. We knew he'd eventually succumb to the disease, and we were prepared for that, but we were far from ready. The loss hit us hard. The next day my coven sister Phoenix was killed in an auto accident. Nobody was prepared for that. The shock and grief were terrible. Two weeks later, Merlin, one of our cats, died of a brain tumor. I thought I would never smile again. Experiencing all the symptoms of depression, I lost too much weight, too much sleep, and entirely too much hope. Don't get me wrong, people were wonderful. Cards, flowers, email messages, and phone calls cascaded into our home. Those who could came to visit and embrace us. Women all over the country did healing rituals for us. And I was grateful for their love. But my husband and I were inconsolable. Nothing, however loving or kind, could pierce the gloom. A few weeks later another coven sister gave me C.V. Brondwin's book, Clan of the Goddess. I thanked her politely, but, unable to focus, I didn't try to read it until two weeks later. When I finally opened it, I understood what a wonderful gift it was. On page 23, I found these words: "In your lifetime, time and time again, you have experienced moments that were snatches of pure joy. . . With each experience you added a little more divine energy to your soul and that is how you accumulated the divine energy that makes you so powerful today." Cocooned as I was in a thick shell of grief, I felt far from powerful. Nonetheless, I read on and found the suggestion that I make a habit of reliving those times. Taking every experience, one at a time, she suggested I smell it, feel it on my skin. She suggested that I taste it, that I hear every sound, and advised that when I'd experienced the moment as fully as I had the first time around, I should name it and clutch it in my fist then gather it into my heart. She promised that once I had done all that, I could draw on its energy any time I chose. And each time I relived them, those moments would add yet more power to my soul. "All well and good," I groused. (I frequently talk to books.) "But how can I relive my moments of joy when I'm too depressed to remember them?" She suggested reliving the thrill of my first kiss. That was fifty-one years ago! I decided to begin with something more recent—the last time Merlin lay on my lap. I sat on the sofa where the moment had happened and recalled the contentment of being fully present as he draped himself over my right arm. And before I knew it an amazing thing happened: I discovered that I was smiling. Relaxing into the memory, I felt his weight on my thighs. I watched my pale hand stroke his raven colored fur. I listened to his purring. And I watched his little golden eyes close as his purring subsided into sleep. A fire was burning in the hearth, just as it had been when I'd held him last. I listened to the crackle and smelled the woodsy scent. I had my first source of power. I named it Merlin on My Lap and tucked it into my heart. Suddenly, like rainbow-colored confetti, memories fluttered all around me. I could barely keep track of them all. Every time I found my bliss, I found another morsel of Goddess power. That night, for the first time in several weeks, I slept a full eight hours. The next day I had an uncontrollable urge to increase my store of joy. Instead of reflexively petting the other cats while silently mourning Merlin, I deliberately paid attention to each one of them—feeling, seeing, hearing, and smelling all that the experience offered. Then I held each moment in my hand, named it, and added it to my stash. Growing stronger with each bit of joy, I found myself committing one-liners and puns that made my husband laugh. I gathered that laughter to my heart too. I went out for the first time in several weeks, and I found myself joking with the supermarket checkout lady. I grinned at the arrogance of the gulls as they strutted the parking lot. I delighted in the sunshine and the nascent daffodils. I gloried in an early yellow-edged and black Merlin butterfly. And I squirreled away these moments too. We all live through painful moments. The trick is to release the grief-laden memories while internalizing their lessons. In my case the lesson was to be fully present, to honor every second I have with those I love, for as long as I have my trove of memories, I can live them again whenever I want. Merlin and Phoenix and Steve are all still with me, vibrant and precious. I'll savor the triumph of understanding that until the day I die. Pleasure, like sorrow, feeds upon itself. I had to decide which one I would carry and send out into the world. I've made my choice. And having written about it, I've named the act of writing and clutched it in my fist. In a moment I shall gather it into my heart, so whenever I need to I can live this joy again as well. Vila SpiderHawk, author of Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones, lives in the woods of Pennsylvania with her husband, their six cats, and their many woodland friends. SpiderHawk is a practicing Witch, an avid gardener, and a gourmet vegan cook. See her web site at www.vilaspiderhawk.com.
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