Carolyn Wing Greenlee

On Joy and Hope

I admit it. I was burned out. Even though I loved what I was doing, I had been hitting it hard, striving for certification in The Emotion Code in the six months allotted to meet the requirements. First I powered through the coursework, feeling like a steeplechaser jumping hurdles as I faced each section’s tests, then celebrating briefly when I passed the 100-question final. After that, it was client after client to complete thirty treatments including four dogs and clearing four heart-walls. Heart-walls took the longest because they usually require anywhere from two to six sessions to release a lifetime of trapped emotions shielding the client’s heart from heartbreak.

But I did it—met the deadline with two months to spare. It was exhilarating work, rewarding and surprising, but I was tired. I was hoping the two family gatherings Dan and I were going to attend back-to-back would be a vacation,. I submitted my documentation to the Emotion Code certification team and left.

Dan had promised that I didn’t have to attend every function of his family reunion, so I packed some paint brushes, watercolors and tablets of paper, and chose to spend Tuesday afternoon painting in the back yard. It wasn’t very good. My right brain, which is where rest, restoration, color, savor, and delight happen, was shriveled like half a desiccated walnut from years of neglect. I kept trying, though, and on Friday morning, I did one painting I liked.

A week later we drove back into Lake County, having missed the 5.1 earthquake, but just in time to unpack before the Clayton Fire began the next afternoon. Smoke rose like a stalk of brown broccoli and quickly spread. It was just under a year since the Valley Fire began, and we still feel the worry. Would there be another early morning evacuation call?

Lake County was bewildered and alarmed, but good news came—an arsonist was arrested and charged with starting seventeen fires. Relief was palpable.

Meanwhile, the summer Olympics was in full swing. I watched Simone Biles astonish the world.

On Wednesday, my friend Stephanie told me about a Wall Street Journal article about Biles that she had just read. “She has the same coach that she’s had since she was seven,” Stephanie said, “and she has a most interesting coaching style. If it’s a choice between the birthday party of her best friend and practice, she says Simone goes to the party. Where most gymnasts do ten vaults a day, Simone might do ten a week. She says Simone lives a normal life. Moderation. When they’re getting ready for an event, they talk about silly stuff. Simone doesn’t sit with a towel over her head getting into the zone. Most of all, it’s about joy—of keeping the joy in gymnastics and in life.”

In all my years of watching Olympics, I’ve never heard anything like that. It’s always about sacrifice—relentless pursuit of excellence—training, early mornings to late at night, no days off ever, and eyes on the gold. Sounded reasonable to me. Sacrifice, discipline, pressing hard, foregoing all but the one thing—and practically the only thing that matters. That’s what makes champions, right? Sounded true to me. I’m Chinese. Joy? What’s that?

On Thursday, word came from Diana, my Emotion Code case manager, saying I had met all requirements. My certificate would be coming soon. I celebrated by taking the rest of the week off.

Friday, Dan set up a long table for me in a downstairs room I call The Cave. It has banks of daylight balanced florescent lights and is the coolest place in the house. I took my tablets of paper, the same brushes and paints, and my dog and sat there unable to have a single creative idea.

Sometimes you have to prime the pump. When in doubt, I draw horses. Entertain the right brain with color and shapes. Nobody has to see it but me. Anything I don’t like can be thrown away. I have nothing to prove. This is not for show or for sale. This is for joy.

Yesterday I “painted” for two hours and finally got two honest ideas and one painting I liked. Today I painted for an hour and a half, working on an idea that came yesterday. Today I worked out some of the problems and found a place of rest. It’s a picture of my kitty Hope and me sitting on the piano bench side-by-side. It’s one of my favorite things she does, pawing the keys sometimes in harmony and appropriate rhythm with what I’m playing.

I like this picture because I changed the decor, the colors of the room, even the rugs. I had freedom to make it what I wanted it to be, not slavishly trying for perfection or realism. It captures the feeling of an afternoon together, all the more precious because Hope is very close now to dying. She has not eaten much in a month, and she is drinking less each day.

For the past three days, whenever Hope comes out from her hiding place, I lie on the floor near her, just be-ing present, not anxiously trying every configuration of foods that might entice her, not pleading, “Please, please drink!”

I don’t think I’ve ever known how to just BE. There was always another book to write, another person needing care. Now I find I can lie near Hope asking nothing of her, simply loving her. And I feel her loving me back.

In this lack of striving, working, doing, there is Hope. There is peace. Rest. And joy.

C and Hopie at piano - 1

Hopie in plants again - 1


  1. Kathie

    August 23, 2016 - 6:10 PM

    You continue to amaze me & to inspire others with your determination! So proud of you!
    xoxo kathie

  2. Jill Shaul

    August 23, 2016 - 11:35 AM

    Dear Carolyn,
    Gerry forwarded your email to me here at the office. It made me happy, (certification) and sad, (Hope coming to her time), but mostly it reminded me how grateful I am to be included in your circle. You calm and reassure, whether that’s your intent or not, it’s what reading your words, seeing your art and simply thinking about you make me feel. Thank you! Sarah and I will be singing at your church this Sunday. I hope you’ll be there! Love, Jill

    • Carolyn

      August 23, 2016 - 12:16 PM

      Hi, Jill. So glad I’ll get to hear you and Sarah again! I love your spirits and the blend of your voices. I’ll definitely be there. We’re also having a healing line, one of my favorite things. I want to thank you for your kind words. You’re easy to love, calm, and comfort because you love Jesus so much. Alll you need is a little reminding how much HE loves YOU. Then the anxieties go, and the peace that passes all understanding guards your heart and mind through Him. See you Sunday!

  3. Gail

    August 23, 2016 - 12:20 AM

    Oh, Carolyn…..what a blessing! I can just see you and Hope. And knowing how you have impacted so many people astonishes me! You are joy!! You resonate joy and peace, color and shape and song!! Love you, dear friend!

    • Carolyn

      August 23, 2016 - 9:35 PM

      You make me smile. Thanks, Gail.
      Hope has been drinking more water and actually ate more today. God told Dan and me to pray for her healing. I was just praying she would die peacefully and easily. Never thought to pray that she would recover!

  4. Karen fulk

    August 22, 2016 - 9:11 PM

    I love the shedding of doing. Been working at that for about a decade.. feels great not to have to perform for your own ego . Lol. Thanks for the update on everything. So sorry about the fire, and earthquake? Yikes.

    • Carolyn

      August 23, 2016 - 9:39 PM

      I like “the shedding of doing.” Well said. You are such a terrific artist. I’m hoping you are able to keep the joy in it. I love your paintings and sculptures, the embodiment of Truth in so many interesting and original ways. Glad to know you’re keeping your life in balance. That’s a joy in itself.

  5. Jennifer G.

    August 22, 2016 - 8:35 PM

    I LOVE the painting of you and Hope at the piano!
    If you need lessons on just “being” I’m a pro. Lol.

    • Carolyn

      August 23, 2016 - 9:45 PM

      Haha! Okay, Jen. You’re on.

  6. Cathy

    August 22, 2016 - 7:29 PM


    Congratulations on completing your hurdles! We are all so blessed by having you in our lives! You are like a tall, straight tree guiding us on our path.

    The painting of you and Hope Kitty is perfect, and just the way I imagined your piano sessions in my “mind’s eye.” I love Hope Kitty very much and I’m sorry she is leaving us. However I am comforted in knowing that she will be purring in God’s lap soon.

    I Love You,


  7. Alice

    August 22, 2016 - 5:49 PM

    Absolutely love the paintings. You have always amazed me and are such a blessing in my life, and Ken’s too. We thank God for bringing us together, so many years ago that I no longer keep track – it seems like a lifetime – a good lifetime.

    • Carolyn

      August 22, 2016 - 6:48 PM

      Alice, if it weren’t for my blindness, I wouldn’t have needed the guide dog. If it weren’t for your work with Hedy’s puppy raiser Heather, I wouldn’t have such a fabulous guide. So, through that most desperate of times, God brought about a friendship that keeps enriching us, though we are far apart and involved in very busy lives. Blessings to you and Ken and the work you continue to do so generously for the sake of others.

  8. Don Fallick

    August 22, 2016 - 5:41 PM

    Some of the best art you’ve ever done, in my unhumble opinion. I can feel your calm, acceptance, and love. It’s at times like this that one is closest to God.

    • Carolyn

      August 22, 2016 - 6:47 PM

      Close to God is the best place to be. In His presence is fullness of joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength!

  9. Captain Betty

    August 22, 2016 - 5:03 PM

    Carolyn, this is such good news. For months you have seemed driven, and I have worried that you would just collapse one day in a heap on the floor. To just sit and BE does not sound like you, but I’m so happy and relieved that you’ve made this discovery. I love your Hope paintings. They’re so sweet.

    • Carolyn

      August 22, 2016 - 6:47 PM

      Driven is right. So much to do and so little time! Sometimes God has to flatten us (or, rather, let us flatten ourselves) and then we figure out a better way. Someone said we’re called humanbeings, not humandoings. Be still and know that I AM God. So glad He is, and that I don’t have to be!

  10. Mary E. Trimble

    August 22, 2016 - 4:57 PM

    Whew! Carolyn, you are a wonder! I love the artwork. I’m impressed, too, with all you accomplished. Those sessions sound intense. Good for you. What an accomplishment!

    • Carolyn

      August 22, 2016 - 6:46 PM

      I just watched the Olympic marathon—the last half hour of the long, grueling race. In the last five mile stretch, I kept saying, “Don’t fall! Don’t fall! Don’t give up! Keep going!” When it was over, boy, was I tired! In a way, the last four months have been like that marathon and, like the American who earned the bronze, I’m so glad I made it to the finish line, and I’m surprised how exhausted I was. It wasn’t the coursework and treatments that were so grueling, it was the lack of balance. Serving is draining if you don’t take time to recharge. It’s the oxygen mask falling from the airplane ceiling compartment—you put yours on first, then on the child next to you. Since my time off (today I’m back to work), I found a renewed inspiration in things I’ve been putting off because I didn’t have the emotional energy to face it. From now on, I want the accomplishments to be the fruit of abiding in the peace and joy of God, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.

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