Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An account on Joy

There I was sitting in my softest, most forgiving sweatpants and tank top while the scent of coffee grinds meandered lazily through the shop. That day the subtle shuffle of people coming and going was catching my attention more than usual. It was, to me, a shouting reminder of the fact that there is an extremely accessible exit nearby that I can use. All in all Starbucks does a really fantastic job creating a tranquil work environment; there are plenty of outlets for the worker bee/student, the wifi is strong and FREE, and they always play the least invasive background music. I enjoy frequenting cafes for these reasons whether it is for my daily fix of caffeine, devouring tiny colorful donuts, or sucking up all the free wifi. 
This particular endeavor into the world of Norah Jones playlists, and espresso add shots, I was attempting to begin the very first pages of my novel. For months I had been scribbling onto anything within arms reach when an idea decided to plant itself into my skull. Napkins, notebooks, notepads, computers, phones, even my arm (more than once). Now had come the time to ACTUALLY begin the writing. It gave me that “I just ate rotten thai food from last month” kind of feeling that sits hard and heavy in your gut. As I sat in this bustling Starbucks trying to scrounge around for the courage to start page 1, all I could hear was the sound of a frequently opened door. I didn’t hear the blender mixing up magical frappucino concoctions, or the barista calling out misspelled names, I heard the avenue of my escape being used by everyone but me!  I felt the corners of my brain attempting to divert its attention on anything other than the beginning lines of my book. My eyes flicked around the surface of the dark wooden table I condemned myself to. Slowly, methodically, my line of vision traced along the lighter grains in the wood. I knew once I began writing I was done for, so I was finding any kind of distraction possible.
Why would someone consciously subject themselves to anything that creates such an upheaval of emotion? It seems somewhat masochistic of me to attempt writing a novel if the result is a surge of anxiety, nausea, and lack of sleep...but what I also experience is a crippling wave of joy. It’s the kind of feeling that tears up your insides and leaves them strewn across the floor, yet at the same time you are whole. This is why I make that choice.
There have been countless times when I begin writing something, my heart is in tangles, and the end result is this uncanny sense of enlightenment and release. The process is not easy, it’s scary. It is so scary that I often avoid it because once you begin, it engulfs your being and there is no going back. When I think of my writing and what it does to me, I imagine a stripping away of EVERYTHING and seeing all my fears laid out on a table, and then it nourishes my soul.
Now, there are other things in this world that we can experience that don’t dig as deep into you. To put it simply, they’re going to be nicer to you. I like to think of them as marshmallows, these surface level things. They’re sweet, fluffy, easily attained (over and over again), require little to zero emotions, and give you primal satisfaction. Marshmallows can come in a variety of flavors, if you will, and will make you happy. For me its singing.. loudly, off key, with an air microphone, and erratic swooshing arm movements. I would like to add that it’s immensely more fun if these things occur while I’m driving in my car! What a glamorous feeling; the windows are rolled down, fresh air is blowing my hair around, and if I play it just loud enough I truly start to believe I sound good. Yes, I love my faux rockstar abilities, but I inherit nothing more than a childish grin across my face.  Happiness is something you can feel without any alterations in your core being, but I wouldn’t consider it true Joy if it didn’t shatter me from the inside out.
Imagine a day on the beach; the sweet, salty breeze interlaced with the sighs of each breaking wave. Warmth from the sun explores the expanse of your body while millions of sparkling sand bits sleep beneath you. As you lie in this moment you notice a faint drizzle of ocean kisses, and that you’re happy. Now I want you to think about that same sun, the respectable light in the sky just far enough to be pleasurable on your skin while sitting on the beach. The next thing I want you to do is imagine carrying the sun inside your belly. This is the difference between things that make you happy and Joy. Its like a giant cosmic firework has rooted itself within you, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it is going to burn you alive. 
I think it’s important to clarify that I don’t discredit the importance of having happiness in our lives. What I would like to do is coerce you into letting Joy ravage you.  It’s so easy to turn away from things that are frightening and wild, intrusive and demanding. I understand!  Writing is probably my greatest joy, and it gnaws away at me... constantly. It sets my bones on fire, but leaves me with some out of this world magic that brings me back to life. Happiness is what makes life fun, but it is surrendering to Joy that makes life worth living. It would be a colorless existence if you didn’t dare to carry the sun at least once. 


  1. The last two paragraphs are an exquisite exploration of the contrast between happiness and joy.

    We definitely need to share this with the class!

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Cali Dreamin

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