Joy. Its a big word for being so small isn’t it? Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as:
1a: evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : DELIGHT
b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion : GAIETY
2: a state of happiness or felicity : BLISS
3: a source or cause of delight
I have struggled with joy in the last few years. I attach guilt to joy. Or perhaps I replaced joy with guilt. That feeling that I should be doing more. Helping more. How dare I feel joy?
It started in the summer of 2016. Well, that’s not entirely true. It was always sort of there. I always felt a certain responsibility to do more because of what I considered the privilege of my education. But the noise in my head to do more increased in2016. And that’s when the guilt started to come. Because the fact is that I had a job I liked. I had a side hustle as a Beachbody coach that I loved. But how does one sell a workout program when the world is burning??
The noise in my head came to a fever pitch this summer when our country started locking up children. Here I was with my healthy kids and I was focusing my time on a goal setting course. A goal setting course?! While there are babies being taken from their parents?? I could barely sleep. I felt physically sick. And I felt lucky. And obviously I felt pretty confused.
And now we are here. Or rather last week. I was picking photos out for our Christmas cards. It just seemed so…joyful and yet how do you embrace joy when there is so much wrong with the world? How do you embrace the joy of life when antisemitism is on the rise? When systemic racism continues to plague our country? When babies are still separated from their families? When there are people living in tent cities awaiting the right to seek asylum? How do I embrace the joy of this time of year? Who gives me the right?
Well, no one gives me the right but being true to myself, being authentic, these are the things I need to do. Finding joy. These are the things I need to do to help others. The joy will keep me going. Will bring me hope. Brene Brown says, “Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. yes, it's scary. Yes, it's vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope.”
When the world feels like all hope is lost and we just want to take a break what we need is joy. Joy from the lights of a menorah. Joy from the lights of a Christmas tree. Joy from children’s laughter. I say it’s okay to to be happy even if everyone isn’t. It’s okay to find joy even if you’re surrounded by sadness. It’s what keeps you going.
So I’ve come to realize that I can be both. Joyful and heartbroken. I can be happy and sad.
I can be horrified by the state of the world and still be a Beachbody coach.
I can be working with others tirelessly to try to help migrant families and still work on my goal setting course.
I can embrace the joy and the suck all at the same time.
I’ve realized that when I go looking for gratitude it is joy that I often find. It is the joy that gives me the hope to keep on going. I can’t go searching for joy despite what is happening in the world but because of what is happening in the world.
Work hard friends. Be brave. Be you. Embrace joy. We need it now more than ever.