This post is part of SOYJOY‘s What brings you joy contest. Learn more here.
Seriously, I'm a person of a pretty morose character. Years of wrong choices, bad luck, untrained coping skills and general pessimism have flavoured me in such a way that contentment has been an elusive second cousin, thrice removed.
About six years ago I found myself alone, lonely, and unhealthy and medicated. I had hit my bottom and luckily for me I was desperate to climb back up. I explored meditation and cognitive therapy. I went to twelve-step meetings and listened to the stories of those who had suffered much more than me, always wondering if I deserved to be so unhappy. I couldn't pinpoint the start of my decline, but I guessed it was sometime during my fourth year of university. I knew, though, that I had lived with unhappiness and depression off and on for years.
So you can imagine my hesitation and skepticism when my dear friend Kate Baggott posted about Joy the other day. I thought about it, Joy, and couldn't wrap my head around it. I had decided long ago that Contentment was my goal, and sometimes even Happiness. Happiness could last a day or even a week, but Joy? Joy is fleeting, a burst of energy that invigorates and then gets replaced by every day life.
I thought about Joy. What, to me, is Joy? I thought of my four-year-old son, who is a Joy, but he is also a lot of work and sometimes a pain in the bum. I thought of coffee, and ice cream, and a good submarine sandwich, all of which have brought me Joy, but on such superficial levels. I thought of the Joy at the click of the Paypal button, and the arrival of packages in the mail, and remembered hauling van-loads of junk from my moldy basement, stuff I bought, some of which were still in the packages. I thought of every $100 I put towards my debt, watching the number decrease steadily, and thought that might be Joy. I thought of the Joy of paying off my student loan (someday) and then acquiring a mortgage. Will that be Joy? But what if the roof falls in?
The day after Kate's post I noticed the word Joy on a couple of status updates in my Facebook. One was describing a man (whom I didn't know) standing in front of his muddy mini-van - off-roading perhaps? The second update was describing tears of Joy at this video and I thought, "that must be it, Joy is the feeling of being really alive." You see I spent so many years feeling dead inside, feeling bogged down by all the negativity in the world, forgetting that people survive. And that is a reason to feel Joy. Gratitude for living is a reason for Joy.
I still think Joy is fleeting but that's ok. In my case it will have to be quantity over quality, because if Joy is not continually sustainable then I will just have to find more of it.