Joy is a choice. - Kristen Kalp

Joy is a choice.

Every now and again, I’ll catch myself stacking work on top of TV shows on top of movies, with podcasts and Instagram to fill even my private in-the-bathroom moments. I’ll move from screen to book to device to TV to car radio and back to screen, circling through to keep entertained for every moment, faster and ever more frenetically, until I give in to whatever it is that wants to be heard in the quiet: the message of the patient, tender creatures who live just beneath the scurrying surface of everyday life.

Those patient and tender creatures of the quiet help us remember.

I’ve remembered about music. How, given half an hour, a little sheet music, and an instrument, you can make a whole world vanish and reappear, entirely new. How there’s no need to record it, save it, or capture it. How music is…and then isn’t…every day, in every part of the world, without any devices to make sure it lasts and lasts.

I’ve remembered about poetry. How I used to write, all the time and every day, because I could. Because poems were pouring out and I could either catch them on paper or try stuffing them back into my insides, awkwardly, like stilling a ferret who’s hellbent on escaping from the deep, warm pocket of my favorite sweater. (Mostly I chose to let them escape.)

I’ve remembered about talking to people. How the baristas at bookstores are inevitably kind-hearted word nerds, always hiding and yet dying to be seen. How they’ll make witty banter if you smile mischievously. How talking to strangers, without agenda and without trying to be efficient about it, is one of humanity’s loveliest gifts.

I’ve remembered about loving people. How sometimes the best way to love your partner is to buy all the manly bath products he will not allow himself to purchase, then do the (dreaded) grocery shopping so that home feels lovely, delightful, and warm when he walks in the door after too many hours away.

I’ve remembered how the best and worst thing about life is that it’s…daily.

You have to eat again today, no matter how much or how little, how well or how poorly you ate yesterday. You have to move your body again today, no matter how hard you worked yesterday, and you have to love people today, even if you gave entirely too much energy to everyone you know yesterday and last week and the week before.

Yes, it’s daily.

But in each of the daily bits, you get another chance. You get to make music and sing along to the radio and consume sweet-sweet-lovely caffeine and do your work and remember about silence, too. You get to write and have brilliant conversations with people who open your heart and mostly, you get to smile softly to yourself when no one is looking.

You get to remember that at the end of life, there will be a vast horizon of days to look back upon, and this day will be only a warm, kind blip.

Here’s to another warm, kind blip, my friend.

…THE NEXT DAY. (Because the best/worst thing about life is how it’s daily, remember?  And perfection porn says I should show you only the happy and dammit, I won’t do that to you.)

I started off crying and vulnerable and scared, because in addition to all those lovely things I wrote about yesterday, I’m remembering about the heart-wrenching consequences of loving so much you can hardly breathe: you’re afraid that the love you’re feeling and creating and experiencing together will go away.

You’re afraid he’ll die while texting on his commute.
You’re afraid he’ll stop breathing, or the apocalypse will happen while you’re not together, or your plane will crash on your business trip.
You’re afraid the cancer or the disease or the life-altering symptoms will come back.

Even with friends, with those people who fill in the gaps of your everyday life with humor and good graces, you’re afraid they’ll move away.
You’re afraid the two of you will grow apart.
You’re afraid your best days are behind you.
You’re afraid you’ll never be who you believed you could be way back when, and the pain of that disappointment will dampen you both.

There are 1,000 reasons to fear losing the people you love most, and the white-hot blinding and searing fears overtake you, sometimes.

That’s when it’s good to remember about the people who help you remember.

Morgan helps me remember about breathing and about staying connected to my body when my mind wants to run monkey-on-crack-cocaine-frantic laps around my life screaming, “MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY” at everything within a 22-mile radius.

Anne helps me remember about writing every day, even when I don’t want to and frankly, don’t give a shit, and am entirely convinced that this thing I’m writing will be terrible. (It’s terrible, isn’t it. Ah well. I’m writing.)

Meg helps me remember about my body and the physical world — the things I avoid when I go deep into Depression Land or Stressed-Out Land or all the other Very Not Fun Lands. (I’m surviving the holiday season with her this year.)

Brene helps me remember about fearing the loss of everyone you love — we all have it — and that we can’t selectively numb emotion. It’s the work of a lifetime to remain vulnerable and to trust joy. Watch this with fresh eyes and it can change absolutely everything about the way you live.

Facebook, ever so ironically, helps me remember that a few years ago today, I was giving a speech called Joy is a Choice. Which details my struggles with depression and not wanting to live anymore and how my experiments in having more fun in my life panned out and how, over and over again, I chose joy. And choose it still.

(That speech and the confetti battle afterward remain one of the best moments of my whole life. Because when you pack sixteenish pounds of confetti in carry-on, play with it among 250ish people, and pass the hat to handle the $500 clean-up fee aboard the historic Queen Mary, well…it’s all joy.)

People still remind me of that day, and how they got a glimpse of all the light on the other side of suffering, and how those moments of flinging confetti into the air helped them remember about love, and being a kid, and being happy for no reason. Also they remember about finding confetti on your pillow and in your bra and down your pants, which is the most lovely side effect of attending a speech that I can imagine.

Finally, Jenny helps me remember about being Furiously Happy, which is about choosing joy whenever possible, on every single day that the depression or the [insert mental illness here] doesn’t drag you under.

May you remember about the people who help you remember.

May you love fully and deeply without fear of loss or zombies or cancer or accidents or all the horrific tumbleweeds your mind has been playing on loop to keep you from being fully alive.

…and may you, my friend, find confetti on your pillow or down your pants for no particular reason.

P.S.  Please join the Fuck Yah club if you want me to help you remember about confetti and joy and being you in the world, despite everything fighting to keep you from it.