Heather is talking joy

Today’s guest writer is Heather–pondering joy. As ever, use ye olde cut and paste for the sites Heather provided.

“’Tis the season to be jolly!”

But what, as I say to my students, does that even mean?

I have a funny relationship with joy. I shy away from it; most of the time, I even hide.

When I was younger, my best friend gave me a piece of paper with a handwritten quote from Andre Maurois:

“The need to express oneself in writing springs from a maladjustment to life, or from an inner conflict which the adolescent (or grown [WO]man) cannot resolve in action. Those to whom action comes as easily as breathing rarely feel the need to break loose from the real, to rise above, and describe it… I do not mean that it is enough to be maladjusted to become a great writer, but writing is, for some, a method of resolving a conflict, provided they have the necessary talent.” (My edit, naturally.)

Ever since I was a young, I’ve been wary of being truly joyful. It’s not a “maladjustment,” necessarily. But it is a sense of being afraid, or unable, to be openly joyful about things. I remember once I was at a wedding with my mom and stepfather, and I wanted more than anything to dance. I loved to dance, though I did only when I was alone. Even now, when I’m alone, sometimes I’ll dance around the house to music that I love. Then, though, that night at the wedding, I watched my cousins dance. Just when I thought I was ready to get out there and dance with them, after talking myself out of it for hours, my mom said it was time to go. I was afraid of sharing my joy, of being joyful in front of others. And so I let the opportunity pass.

I don’t know where this came from, or why it’s persisted through my pre-teen, teenage, and adult years. I was always known as the girl who should “smile more” (although we all know how we respond to that now). Very early on in life, I perfected what some call “resting bitch face”. It was not because I was bitchy, necessarily; it was a shield, a way to hide joy, no matter how strongly I felt it. If people saw I was having fun, it opened me up to them too much.

I do share my joy…sometimes. I smile and laugh with my husband, my daughter, my son; my parents, my siblings, my family. But when it comes to the “outside” world—people I see every day in passing and sometimes even my students (who asked me one day, “Miss, do you even smile?”)—I have a perpetual poker face. And really, anymore, I have to ask myself why I wear that mask.

Last year, Ali Trotta wrote a guest post on Deanna’s blog (https://www.deannaraybourn.com/in-which-we-have-guests-part-4/). Her post brought me to tears, especially the part that said:

“I think, too often, we get so caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day life that we forget how to do more than check off responsibilities. We go to work or school. Pay a mortgage or rent. Clean. We slip into the idea of living safely and maybe stop really living.”

When I finished reading, I had to ask myself, why was I continuing to “liv[e] safely” instead of allowing myself to experience—and share—my joy? Why do I fear that joy? Why do I fear showing people that I enjoy things? Why have I been like that almost all my life?

I’ve been able to distract myself, I guess, from things that could—and often do, when I let them—bring me true joy. I forget, on many days, how to slow down and simply experience joy—I forget how to be jolly. Granted, most of the time, I say I’m happy. I give the perfunctory “Good,” when someone asks me how I’m doing. I am, in general, a happy person. It just doesn’t show.

But perhaps I should let it.

This year, finally, I will make that change. This time is, after all, about new beginnings and starting over and celebrating the people and things we love. I resolve,, let’s say, to allow more joy into my life; not only that, but I will let my joy actually show. There’s a rather ridiculous advertisement for our local grocery store, in which an overly happy, overly muscular dude beams at the camera and says, “Wellness is a choice. Take charge of your health.”

Now that I’m in my thirties and I’m really of adult age (though always a kid at heart), I will finally take charge and allow myself to choose joy. I won’t care who sees it. I will choose to live with and for joy. I will choose to be jolly.

After all, ‘tis the season.

About me: I’m a mom, wife, daughter, etc.; book-lover, reader, and blogger; teacher, writer, and editor. I handle some social media stuff for jenhalliganpr.com, and I drink massive amounts of coffee in order to function. I blog about books—and sometimes about teaching and life—over at wanderingbarkbooks.wordpress.com. I tweet at @hwheaties. Come say hi!