Joy hides in plain sight. She shows up in the form of the impossibly bright fuchsia-colored berries still clinging to the now leafless little bush outside my window. She shows up in the smile of the little girl who delights at seeing my dog, Caly, pad down the street. She sneaks into my routine in the form of a heart shaped cloud, of orangey rusty-red oak leaves falling from a winter-blue sky. She is everywhere, often sitting on the shoulders of grace and kindness, but also out on her own, a free spirit if there ever was one.
Joy doesn’t require the presence of absence of any other emotion. She can come in the swirl and chaos of the deepest grief; on a plain day with nothing much to be said about it; on a day of heart-stopping delight and beauty. She doesn’t care where you are, where your mind is, where your heart is, whether it’s a good day for Joy or not. She just shows up and shows up and shows up, knowing that you either will or will not notice her, knowing that it’s all the same to her. She shows up just for the sake of being exactly who she is.
Joy is not something we conjure up, she’s not something we strive for, not something we can put on a timeline of goals: Achieve Joy by the 28th of this month.
She is something we cultivate and practice and learn to notice. She’s something we can build a relationship with. Like anyone or anything else, she ebbs and flows, comes and goes, like your cat or a good hair day. We would not be human if we ran around in a constant game of hug-o-war with Joy. We would be dogs.
Dogs own the playbook on Joy. They seek it out, dig it up, roll around in it, bury it to sleep or eat. Dig it back up when they feel like it. Dogs don’t need an excuse to feel Joy, they are hardwired for it. We are too, but that connection gets loosened somewhere along the way in second or third grade, sixth or seventh if we’re lucky. We learn to protect Joy, to cover her up and keep her safe, because we learn that others can and will try to take her from us. As if there is not as much Joy in the world as there is breath. Joy is infinite, exponential, strong as titanium. But we learn, as we grow up, that she isn’t. That she is finite and scarce and delicate as spun glass and tiny birds.
Caly will tell you that that is all just so much baloney. Joy is sitting on your shoulder, in your teacup, in your best friend’s smile or laugh, in the doughnut with sprinkles, in the sweetness of fresh peas. She is in everything, even the darkest of moments, because she is us incarnate. At our essence we are joy and love. We just also have to be human and that gets in our way quite a bit. We get tangled up in the web of daily life in these bodies and Joy is out frolicking around the park waiting for us to join her.
So join her, seek her out like your dog seeks out her favorite toy. Hold hands and jump up and down with her. Learn to see her where she hides in the most obvious of places – hot coffee, a sweet smile from your partner, kindness from a stranger, being kind to a stranger. Joy is not something we lose or gain, but we must remember to find her. We must remember that we get to choose how much Joy we feel in this life – no matter how much pain we also feel. They are not the inverse of each other. Joy is the ultimate co-exister. She is always right there, waiting for us to see her.
Where do you find Joy? Do you practice seeking her out? Do you wish you saw her more?
One of the biggest things I learned in my own healing process was not to be stingy with Joy. Just because the world is a mess and parts (or maybe the whole) of your life is falling apart, does not exclude you from experiencing Joy.
She doesn’t negate the other emotions. She doesn’t invalidate our pain, our loss or our grief; our sadness, our depression or our darkness. But she does shed a little, sometimes tiny, light on our shivering selves and helps us realize we are not alone, we do not have to suffer without also helping ourselves to as much Joy as we want. So dig in.
With so much love and JOY!