There is a phrase floating around in mainstream culture that goes: “Choose joy.” It always both attracted and disgusted me. I used to think that it meant you always had to be happy, put on a happy front, a happy face, a smile, always be “on.” Which, of course, to an introvert like me who has a forever romance with melancholy and dark enchantment, sounded completely exhausting.
Choose joy – which should have sounded light and beautiful – to me sounded heavy and constricting. As though for me to live the ‘proper way’ I would have to forbid myself to ever feel lows or pains or listlessness or longing or sadness or hurt or shattered or beaten down by the world which in so many ways thrives on beating us down.
But now I have made a strange sort of peace with what ‘choose joy’ means to me. It doesn’t have to mean what it means to anyone else, that is okay. Now I see that for me, I choose joy when I choose myself and my honest loves, passions, desires, fascinations, and interests. For me there is joy – perhaps an odd joy, a strange delight in the view of some people – in the gray rain, in the heavy lament, in the way a shadow drapes itself across a lonely figure in her hour of darkness.
For a long time I wrestled with what I thought were two opposing paths – that of the inspirational writer, and that of the poet who bends affectionately toward the sadness of loss, death, grief, the anguish of a life as well as the ecstasy. But the truth is that joy is not always a smile and inspiration is not always uplifting. It may bring you hope but it may sink you deeper first. There is so much more richness and nuance in all of life than in just the pursuit of “happiness” whatever that means.
My joy is not a plastic smile. My joy is in the vast tumultuous sea of human emotion, exploration, discovery. My joy is a feast.