My Facebook feed lately has been full of helpful advice–for twenty-somethings (get off Facebook), for women in the work place (when aren’t most women in a work place?), for parents (stop reading parenting advice and read storybooks to your kid!), and so forth. Writers, particularly those not yet published, are also the recipients of tsunamis well intended advice.
The assumption must be that perfecting the art of the hotshot-twenty something, respected female employee, effective parent, or published author will make us… what? Probably not wealthy, but rather, happy. All of those lists and sermons are intended to boost us in the direction of happy, rewarding lives.
Hokay. So maybe we could boil off the chiding, scolding, Charlie-Brown-in-second-grade toned recipes for how to go on and content ourselves with the following:
Pay close attention to what brings you joy. Make as much room for it in your life as you can. Hang it on every wall of your personal gallery, keep it on your playlist, sprinkle it on your every meal, and walk in that direction as often as you can. This bumper sticker has cut through more Gordian knots for me, and lifted more fogs, than all the ten things, twenty suggestions, and fifty ways I’ve come across.
If I get into a thicket and nothing is making me happy (this went on for about fifteen years at one point), then I think back to the last time I felt happy. The last time I was engaged in something I did not want to stop doing, the last time I resented having to eat, sleep and drink because it forced me to pause in pursuit of my passion.
This is why I have a horse again–because I am happy on the back of a fine steed, even if I look and feel like a sack of potatoes (which I assuredly do). This is why I keep good books around. This is why I have cats and dogs, why I go for long road trips and plant flowers all over my yard. This is why I occasionally get on You Tube and go on Dave Brubeck or Johannes Brahms listening binges.
These pursuits bring me joy, which is another way of saying, they affirm for me who I am.
You can’t fake joy. It’s highly personal, and when it grabs you, every particle of you is illuminated by it. When you’re seized by joy, that’s the real you, and it feels good to be yourself and it feels good to be around you.
In our headlong rush to be productive, organized, worthy, contributing, respectable people, we get a lot done, we give a lot to others–and we often entirely lose ourselves without even realizing it. When I get lost like that–a human oscillator, bouncing between the lawyer job and the writing job, for example–it’s time to look again for where my joy is, because my most worthy, authentic, energetic and loving self will be there too.
Have you come across some joyful people? What would bring you joy now?
To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Once Upon Tartan, a book that was a tremendous joy to write.