Holding a huge photograph with both hands raised high, I wove my way through the photography lab around students, worktables and computer stations, with my eyes transfixed on the image before my face, like I was waltzing with a tall lover. Fourteen times I lifted a new larger-than-life-sized photo from the printer, and danced across the crowded room, admiring my work as I carried each piece to the wall, to be hung.
“Behind you,” I chirped, passing my classmates. “Ooooops, excuse me,” I cheeped. “It’s so amazing to see these enlarged,” I crowed to students I’d never met who, attracted by the display, stopped to congratulate me. “Harry, can you take a picture of me and my photos?” I asked my photography instructor. Hiding my glasses behind my back, I smiled at the camera thinking, this is too much fun. This is scary.
At the end of class I bundled my fourteen huge prints into a humongous folder, and drove home singing. And the next two nights, I was hunched over my computer doing more work, staying up past midnight both nights. I would allow myself only small doses of happiness. I couldn’t stop working; I needed to keep striving.
What is joy anyway, this thing I’m supposedly always on the lookout for? I keep advocating for living joyfully, but I’m always worried something bad will follow, that my happiness might be taken away. Maybe I’m afraid I’m not worthy of happiness. Or maybe joy seems too frivolous for a mother whose daughter died.
Depression, you’re saying. But, am I not entitled to a little depression after that?
A little sticky-note on my computer’s keyboard says, “I deserve joy.” It sits below the fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie that, between two tiny smiley faces, reads “All your hard work will soon be paid off.”
With all our wishing and wanting, you’d think we would learn to grab every opportunity for joy with two hands raised high and hanging on. You’d think we’d be waltzing with whatever joy comes our way for all the crazy, blessed, depressed or high-flying time we have left.
What gives you joy? How do you hang on to it? And how would you help someone who’s afraid of being too happy?