Love Letter On Joy

giphy.gif

Joy is such funny business. Like success, we think we know what it is, but waaay too often we’re flexing society’s definition of what should make us inwardly content, until something unscripted forces us to recognize that the golden goose we’ve been chasing is in fact the naked Emperor’s nasty drawers and soiled under-things with a satin finish. 

Like success, Joy has a singular fingerprint as distinct as each life that’s journeyed to earth. And until you take time to understand what feeds that inner wellspring for you, chasing joy will remain as elusive as the Kardashian clan kicking it with Kierkegaard. 

Bosslady and former Chief Editor of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth puts it this way, “The worst thing in life is to...feel stuck in an identity that belongs to the world but doesn’t make you feel alive”

I got that shit the hard way—after rejecting the things that bring me unfettered joy handed me my ass in a takeout container. But you know, there really is no way to concretely cement what’s most meaningful and joy-giving to you without first walking through the fire—so you become the fire yourself, from the inside out. 

Because joy is an internal inferno. Maybe not even that different from Dante’s sordid dreamscape. Joy is an inextinguishable source of pure energy that burns white hot at the center of our most awake being. People who are our people—our tribe—can ignite it; generative experiences that leave us lit can spark it and of course, a daily practice of giving life the undivided attention of a 5-year can cultivate it.

I never really thought about cultivating joy as something critical to my creative practice, unlike my writing rituals or a good night’s sleep. Not until I had my joy threatened by a consuming job that tried insidiously to snatch sleep and a sound mind from my hands. Two years in, I found my ordinarily lush and verdant creative brain alien to me—the constant stress and petty personality politics had sucked so much energy out, there was no joy juice left for creativity. That end of my brain collapsed into itself, like a plump pink grape cut from its lifesource, then drained of all the water inside it, until the grape finally shrivels into an unidentifiable raisin in the sun. 

Thanks but No Thanks! I quit that gig and everything that had become a lousy bandaid over my creative hunger (hello binge nights and Zara splashouts! Ok. So I’m still a Zara addict. But why you gotta judge a girl?)

I also got serious about cultivating joy, instead of merely managing stress. This is an ongoing and daily practice. I actually write about all this on Atelier Dore’s site—What I Learned About Cultivating Joy. The essay is up today. 

Your creativity can’t breathe in toxic cultures or in high-stress air. No matter how refined the coolaid or air conditioning is. So open the window. Step outside. Maybe even walk away. And then go a step further—feed whatever brings you joy. Start with the small things. Great company. A good mani. And then cultivate that daily joy-hunt into a practice. Your creativity will thank you for it. And yup—Love you and you’re welcome ! 

Makhene