I’ve been wanting to write about joy.
I think the dictionary has the definition of “joy” wrong, and far be it from me to drop a little email to Old Miriam or Webster, but if I had been one of their editorial assistants, this definition wouldn’t have made it past my pen without some red annotations.
Joy: [noun] the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; the expression or exhibition of such emotions; a state of happiness or felicity; a source or cause of delight
I looked up that definition on Miriam-Webster.com, and, the interwebs being the interwebs, the definition of the word was the anticlimax of the page. Along with “joy”, I’m offered the opportunity to find a housekeeper, take a vocabulary quiz, view a video on how a word gets into the dictionary, join a Facebook community for a coupon savings club, and learn more about how Mitt Romney’s campaign is empowering women. Oh, and this little factoid popped up: “Joy is currently in the top 10% of look-ups on Miriam-Webster.com.”
I can see looking up “plethora” or “sycophant” or “anachronistic” or “bellicose” or even, at this time of year, “cornucopia.” But three little letters? J.o.y. Really? Do we really need a definition here?
Maybe many of us are anticipating a little more complexity to this unassuming word. Maybe a whole bunch of us are scratching our heads over this concept of joy.
Cause if you ask me, joy ain’t happiness. At least that’s what I’d scrawl in the margin of the dictionary, and yes, I’d use “ain’t” just to rankle good old Mir and Web’s propriety a bit.
This time of year triggers some somber memories for me. Memories of slipping into severe pre-eclampsia, memories of an ultrasound picture that went from two heart beats swishing in the womb to just one. As the leaves swirl down and darkness blankets both morning and evening hours, I feel chill fingers of winter dread stroke my spine. It’s a battle to generate happiness in the midst of grief.
Yesterday, I had the chance to chaperone Little Friend’s preschool halloween party. The group of doctors, ghosts, bumble bees, mermaids, Buzz Lightyears and monkeys romped their way through pumpkin cookies, skeleton hunts, treat exchanges, and spooky stories. At song time, everyone went on a ghost hunt: “We’re going on a ghost hunt. Gonna catch a spooky one. We’re not scared. Look–a forest ahead. Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go through it!”
Grief is like that. We can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. We’ve gotta go through it. And on a journey through it, happiness seems a fickle and pale companion. Happiness looks at the spooky things around me, quakes at the knees, quivers at the smile, and quickly ducks behind me to wait for the scary to pass.
But Joy? That little three-letter sprite? Well, Joy’s got some staying power.
I think what strikes me about joy is that it burns a circle of light into the darkness of grief. It sticks by me through the process. Joy is simple. Unassuming. Strong. Concentrated in even the smallest packages.
Since I’ve enjoyed the challenges of writing for 31 days on Quotes that Inspire, I think I’ll take a stab at keeping up the pace as I head toward my favorite holiday, even if Thanksgiving is buried in these memories of grief in recent years. For November, I’ll share the little things that bring me joy.
Today, joy wrapped its arms around me in the kitchen, squeezed, and said, “I love you, Mama.”
Today, I choose joy.