I often picture a reservoir of joy in my body. Joy that could drown all who I love in its effervescence, infect us all with energy and empathy and depth. I can almost feel it as a physical thing zinging around inside me and making me want to dance ecstatically. Sometimes I feel as though I can’t reach the joy, though. It’s locked up, afraid to be uncorked. Or, I can’t get to it because it’s stuck behind a bunch of other crap: sadness, the difficulty of navigating every day life, the crush of financial trial.
What if this joy in my body is something everyone feels but, like me, struggles to access? What if we could all access this joy, if barriers were demolished so that we could feel the depths of our happiness and love? It’s undoubtedly pretty woo-woo, but it’s what I dream of. What if we all could feel it?
An ex-partner of mine told me once that I had “infectious joy.” As the years go by, it seems harder for me to reach. It’s still there, it must be. I feel it when I hear a resolved chord, when my dog leans her body into my side, when I feed people, when people feed me, when I am invited into a web of connection and misfit community, when I am welcomed into a family, however briefly. During those times, I feel open, vulnerable in a way that is not terrifying, able to give and love with all my defenses down. I am empowered to be soft. These times have been way too brief in my adult life. I want my infectious joy to be more accessible, more ready and willing to come out.
My favorite Lucinda Williams song is called “Joy.” The song’s protagonist says she’s lost her joy and she wants it back, so she’s going to go to different places along her life’s trajectory to try to find it. It’s easy to assume that, “You took my joy and I want it back” refers to a severed love, but for me, I think of it as what the world has taken. It is so easy for our systems and our society to grind me (and others like me) down. We miss our joy. We want it back.
Where do you go, or what do you do, to get your joy? Do you find there are ways to extend infectious joy to others even when you’re still pining for yours to come back?