Originally published September 17, 2018
I’m a huge fan of joy.
I’m even a bigger fan of finding it in the little things. Like, for example, knowing my blog post last night likely had something to do with FEMA postponing their Trump Text Test. Down with the Triple T! (Just kidding. I had nothing to do with it. But I’ll take it.)
Inching closer to 50, I’ve found I have a greater appreciation for joy whenever I experience it. Mostly, because today’s reality makes it really hard to focus on it. Keeping in mind the generally accepted theory that joy is contentment from within whereas happiness is the result of external influence, finding that contentment becomes increasingly difficult when you see injustice every day. Kids torn from parents. Women treated as second class citizens, or worse, opportunists and shrill harpies. People of color persecuted for no other reason then being themselves.
It’s really f*cking depressing these days. So, yeah. Joy is hard to come by. Still.
You could make the argument that things like cheering Emmy winners (my happy screech at Peter Dinklage and Thandie Newton winning scared the dog), watching my daughter’s swim meets or spoofing a magazine cover at work are examples of happiness and not joy, but I beg to differ. Because it’s these little moments that get us through.
Having the ability to acknowledge the little moments in the face of greater trials — that is joy to me. Knowing that by stringing these moments together, we can weather a storm, that’s joy. If watching Will Ferrell be silly makes me smile, then I also know that somewhere inside I haven’t given up on the gift of humor — that I can still see the funny in all that is madness these days.
If watching my kids grow and I can cheer on their accomplishments of their own making, recognizing it’s one step closer to the moment they leave the proverbial nest, that brings me joy.
If watching my dog collapse in the grass and wiggle on his back makes me happy, I’ll gladly deposit that in my soul to keep it buoyed against the next stupid Tweet from the president.
If laughing through the work day makes work that much more fun to be a part of, then I’m all for being goofy a little more often. (Note: This is not a problem for me. The aforementioned magazine cover? I made it an homage to Chris Kattan’s “Goth Talk” character.)
There is joy in loving yourself no matter your situation. Joy in the contentment that comes from being happy with what you already have and not what you want. Joy in honoring the blessings life bestows in family and friendship, even in moments of struggle and despair.
When I read The Book of Joy, the realization that struck me the most was that joy is reliant on our existence among others — you can’t have joy in a vacuum. Our existence is only validated by the existence of others, which is what makes those personal connections — at home, with family, at work — that much more meaningful.
I love family, I love friends, but mostly, I love sharing that connection — knowing my existence made an impact even if only for a moment, on someone else’s life. It’s joy for me to know I make a difference. It’s joy for me to know we can all share a laugh together. Happiness together. Gratitude together. It’s the perspective these moments bring that remind me we are all so much larger as a collective that lives, loves and laughs together than the division sowed by those with nothing but grief and anger fueling them.
Find your joy. It’s the light that keeps those shadows at bay.
Today’s recommendation: Another shout out for The Book of Joy. It’s an honest read, but mostly? Inspiring.