They say joy is a feeling. That it is happiness on steroids. Euphoria in suspended animation, lasting a little longer than the smile or hug but the root cause still the same. Something in your environment that made you happy.
If we are lucky we experience joy often - at least every day, if not multiple times a day. A slow start morning with your favorite mug full of coffee, a walk with a friend, a text from that cute guy you went on a date with last week. These little moments in your day that make you pause and grin. The moment is fleeting, you have to register it and take it captive before it is back to the rigamarole of life.
But what if we're wrong? What if we don't have to wait for joy to happen - like we do a joke or a lunch with friends, but rather we can carry it with us, like a trait. A natural state of being, or even better, a contagious state of being.
Contagious. Ooo what a hot-button word in here and now. Our world is being shaken up by a virus and our daily lives have been altered like they never have before - and lo and behold, happiness seems to be a little harder to come by. Or does it just look different? Maybe our frame of reference is being forced to shift and our focus has to change. Paused are the days of happy hours and sunshine park hangs. Paused are the dinner parties and the matrimonial celebrations. Paused are the random drop-ins of neighbors and friends just wanting to say hello.
Paused. This means they'll restart one day but in the interim, we must find new ways to be happy. Or rather let happiness shine through in moments that otherwise would have been deemed mundane. Walks to the market for weekly groceries, puzzles, reading, card games by candlelight (cause why not?). Calls to grandma and your best friend a few states over. Baking, painting, working from home in your pajamas, learning to play guitar.
So many moments to be happy in. So many moments to take captive. Douglas Abrams wrote a phenomenal book called The Book of Joy and in it, he clarifies, with the help of His Holiness the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that joy "subsumes happiness". It is far greater and takes care to recognize and cultivate, but when one does, mmm it is magical. It is satisfying and compassionate, it is empathy and humility, it is humor and humanity all rolled into one trait.
Traits are a part of our being, like eye color. They cannot be altered by the negativity of those around us or simply by our circumstances. Happiness is a feeling and we all know those come and go and shift as often as the wind does, but joy, joy is sustainable. Joy is lasting and permanent if only we practice finding it, cultivating it, and sharing it.
So in this crazy season let's take a little time to shift our focus and in, for, godwilling, we may never get the opportunity again. Let's focus on ourselves and grow as caring, compassionate, humble and joyful humans.