In Defense of Joy
I became a joy addict somewhere from being named after a 1980 Cliff Richard single to the time my father pretended to have a wooden leg, walking down the high street behind me, shouting "But Carrie, it hurts!"
I learned from an early stage that I couldn’t take myself too seriously. Like papa, like daughter, we became a duo of delectation, finding the comedy in any observational opportunity.
Whether he was pretending to be a Jamaican railway servicemen when the phone rang, or me dressing up as Ophelia, hitting myself with a bunch of garden herbs, swimming about in a pond pretending to reenact that scene from Hamlet, my mother would usually find us holding onto a wall for stability as we struggled to find air. Mum would be nearby ready to slip my father his inhaler, holding off an asthma attack. Dad was a hard worker, and despite the responsibility and pressure on his level of the game, the one thing he did manage to do was keep up the humor, no matter how heavy the cloud.
When life threw me curve balls--alcoholic relatives, redundancy, tragedy, a disordered eating habit or Jedward--I didn’t see just how influential my perspective and my decision on that perspective was. Perspective and ownership of how we react to things is the game changer of all life events.
Some things I had attracted; some things had been experiences I didn’t like. Either way, I was responsible for my reaction, I just didn’t know it back then. The victim mentality played an interesting part for some of that time, as I was powerless in my emotional management.
Cut to ten years later, disembarking on that pain, wounds are a matter of the past (I got my refund for the victim mentality show around 2008), lessons are the page references of my present, and tomorrow stages the pranks I’ve been dreaming up today towards those I love.
When we take away the comparison of others, when we make ourselves unoffendable to people’s behaviors, when we can be honest with others in a gentle manner, when we can build around us a culture of honor, accountability, and truth, there’s not much else to do other than work your ass off to bring joy to yourself and others.
Joy isn’t a wall to hide behind in tough seasons. It is the necessity for the breath of life when circumstances are trying to suffocate you. Don’t sit in the pub moaning about your woes--get up and fight again for the freedom of a new perspective. Gain a lesson rather than a hurt. Run from confronting problems, and you’ll sprint into another. Face problems head on, and you’ll leap frog over the same issue again, possibly this time to a merry tune.
Joy is the ultimate stress-ball. I've had days working in advertising where the negotiation has gotten tense, and I wondered how the day will resolve. I remember one day pounding up the five flights of stairs to walk into an edit suite where an editor, a producer, and director had pensively planned for my arrival--with chairs upturned, waste paper sprawled from its bin, phones off the hook--all of them lying on the floor with their tongues out, playing dead. I burst into laughter and creased up against a wall as my peers told me they’ve been playing dead for ten minutes and wondered if I was ever going to arrive.
It’s joy that brings light to over-analysis. It’s joy that breaks the ice, fixes a missed note, and keeps the right hand side of the brain creative. It’s joy that keeps brave communication from back firing or getting hurtful. It’s joy that brings humility to the ego, self-deprecation to the defensive, and hope to the lost.
Last Tuesday night, I found myself enjoying the night life once more of London. Nothing beats the feeling of placing yourself in the red velvet seat of an old historic theatre. I was invited to watch Luke Jermay, a magician labeled as "the man who can read your mind."
You’re not going to get a review; you’re going to get my aberrant thoughts. It wasn’t the magic that got me thinking--it was the philosophy. Somewhere between his telling us the color of a girl’s underwear on row D and the hidden childhood secret of a man running naked through the snow on row M, he talked about the importance of keeping an open mind amongst what we see as reality, followed by a Charles Bukowski poem:
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
Talking to Luke Jermay after the show, we spoke of many different concepts of philosophy. I noticed a tattoo that read "Love will tear us apart." Not so, I thought. Love can, however, tear fear apart.
Laughter is a translation of love. It flicks the bird to fear, stamps on its destructive intentions, and keeps prescriptive medicine at bay. Like a doorman keeping out the wrong clientele, joy explains to fear in a low tone voice, "Your name’s not down--you’re not coming in."