Where’s the party?
No, seriously, where is it? And who’s bringing the ice? Should I tend bar? Are we doing balloons?
I was going to write about something more serious this week. In light of world events, I felt like that was the “right” thing to do.
But screw it. I – and probably you – need some words of joy today. We need some lightness and fun. While we’re adapting to life with Covid-19, unlearning racism, and still doing our best to live life on life’s terms, we still need to celebrate.
In fact, the only way we’re going to build our resilience muscle and thrive through the profound changes we’re experiencing is to balance our pain with some joy.
We’re living in anti-joy times though so finding that balance and bringing the joy requires more intention and attention than ever before.
So I’m giving it the attention it deserves today. I’m showing joy some love.
Looking for joy in all the wrong places.
Joy is hearty. Unlike its cousins, cheer, glee and delight, joy’s more robust. It’s got some teeth and grit. It’s resilient.
For many of us, our most joyful moments come through adversity and struggle. After a period of mourning, we finally reconnect with a sweet joy. We rejoice in the blossoms of Spring when the trees come back to life. We celebrate the restoration and renewal of neighborhoods and communities ravaged by storms, wars or poverty.
The most potent joy is in contrast to the most potent pain.
The beauty of our humanness is we’re wired for this. We’re built for both/and. Joy and pain. Love and hate. Happy and sad. We’re complex and sophisticated creatures.
That’s why looking for joy among the ruins of upheaval, loss, violence, and fear – the seemingly wrong places – is not only possible, it’s how we work.
Whether we like it or not, our pain and struggle are fertile ground for our joy.
In “Joyful: The surprising power of ordinary things to create extraordinary happiness,” Ingrid Fetell Lee’s field guide to finding joy, she describes ten Aesthetics of Joy which are, essentially, the properties of joyfulness.
One of her joy aesthetics is renewal.
“In renewal, we find a kind of resilience, an ability to bounce back from difficulty by reigniting the optimism and hope that rises within us when we believe that joy will return.” - Ingrid Fetell Lee
Lee is spot on. Finding joy through renewal is where it’s at right now as a collective, and it’s always relevant when we’re going through intense personal transformation. Growth is hard and can be downright painful. Trust that we’ll feel joy again is hard to come by.
That’s where the magic of renewal happens. When we’re open to seeing and feeling it, we’ll begin to notice it. We’ll notice that something inside of us – and around us – is beginning anew.
We may still be waist deep in struggle, our emotional earth still scorched, and our wounds still fresh yet glimmers of new life will begin showing through. Moments of lightheartedness and a slightly stronger trust muscle will be our evidence.
Renewal is underway. Joy is coming.
What is being renewed within and around you?
“We need balloons, gurl.”
This is the quote of the week texted from a dear friend, and I couldn’t agree more.
Say what you will about balloons, but they’re a symbol of celebration. When we see a big bouquet of balloons, we know it’s a special occasion. A party’s about to start. And parties and other celebrations are often our highest expressions of joy.
Not surprisingly, celebration is another of Lee’s aesthetics. She says “celebrations mark the pinnacles of joy in our lives” and what makes them so special is that they’re social.
“Celebrating positive events with others increases our feeling that they will be there for us if we encounter tough times in the future.” – Lee
If this isn’t a call to celebratory action right now, I don’t know what is. We’re in some seriously tough times and need to come together now more than ever.
And yet, we’re supposed to keep our distance. Quarantine is cramping our celebration style. The very thing that will help us weather tough times and remind us that joy is still alive and well is now high risk. Wtf?
What’s gay got to do with it?
When it comes to a WTF, it’s good to call on the gays. We’re well versed in how to handle them.
We’re particularly skilled at finding joy in seemingly hopeless places, especially when it comes to celebration and renewal.
Specifically, I’m thinking of the gay tradition of Sunday afternoon Tea Dances. These were inclusive, joyful, celebratory gatherings dating back to the 1950’s pre-Stonewall era. In those days, it was illegal for gay men and lesbians to dance so afternoon tea dances were a way to gather without attracting attention from the cops who were fond of raiding gay bars and speakeasies in the evening hours.
Since men couldn’t dance with men and women couldn’t dance with women, dances like the Hully Gully started which didn’t involve physical contact. If attendees at a tea dance were caught touching or dancing or kissing, they could be charged with “disorderly conduct.”
Between present-day social distancing, stay-at-home orders and law enforcement policy, it’s easy to see similarities to what we face today.
Just like we must now, gays and lesbians found workarounds to celebrate with each other and create joy together during challenging times. We should all take note.
Btw, if you’re wondering about the seemingly random “gay part” of this piece, here’s the scoop. Even though I don’t work exclusively with gay men, they – we – are my specialty. I’m passionate about gay men’s personal growth, and I believe our contributions to society have been overlooked. My writing on self-improvement always highlights how gay men have and continue to be models for individual and collective transformation. There you have it.
You and joy. Celebrating your renewal.
Like so many of us right now, you might be finding yourself hungry for joy these days. Maybe you’re a little famished even. Some of us have been living in chronic joy deprivation for years.
The good news is you can start feeling joy right away. Holding off until Covid’s over or we end racial injustice or until we heal our childhood wounds won’t work. Yes, those will be cause for massive celebration and renewal and there’s much to celebrate today.
Need some ideas?
- Celebrate your wins. I’m thinking of a client who’s learning to play the guitar and celebrated by sending me a clip of him playing his first song. I got to celebrate with him.
- Have parties. Skipping fun is not an option. Just keep your soirees intimate, host them outdoors and give out prizes for Best Mask. Make sure to ramp up the celebration quotient with added color, joyful food and drinks, dance music and maybe balloons!
- Pay attention to your cycles of renewal. Another client of mine had a recent breakthrough and said “I’m getting it!” While not out of the woods just yet, we took time in our session to honor that he was learning and growing.
These are moments of everyday joy. And they’re just a few.
What are you celebrating these days? What could you be celebrating?
Now more than ever, it’s up to you and me to be pro-joy and plant the seeds of laughter, joy and optimism in the fertile ground of our current struggles. Now’s the time to double down on joy, especially when it comes to celebration and renewal. It’s the positive momentum to keep our spirits up.
As always, I’m here to help. Personal growth can often feel anything but joyful so having a guide by your side can make all the difference. I’ll celebrate with you and be your joy advocate!
Speaking of celebration, it’s birthday week for a few of us so I’m off to my own socially distant fun. Pandemic or not, there will be Bellinis and lemon ricotta pancakes.
And, yes, gurl. We do need balloons.