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!