On Joy and Sadness [NaBloPoMo 4]

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 / 1:05 PM

I've been trying to understand this concept of "joy" for awhile now. I think my definition of "joy" for a long time was the same as superficial happiness. To be a joyful person, I believed, was to be optimistic and smiling and upbeat and "in love" with love life. For those of you've who've seen Inside Out, my definition of "joy" was literally character of Joy for the first half of the film.

But over the course of the last year or so, that shifted.

Warning: if you haven't seen Inside Out yet, you may not want to keep reading...

I remember a conversation with Geoff two summers ago, post-surgery when he was first readmitted to the hospital when the cancer came back. We were emailing and he was upbeat, and I couldn't understand why he seemed so happy. I realize now it wasn't happiness he was feeling, but he was a naturally joyful person who also knew how to lean the pain and sadness he experienced without letting it break him. And when I think about the way he confronted the cancer, even until the very end, I can't help but ask myself why I thought "joy" used to be so unattainable.

Because it isn't.

Dan Kois writes about this better than I think I could: what's often missed in our culture is the recognition that joy and sadness can co-exist. In fact, they should. If we lived in a world where we were constantly striving to just be happy, happy, happy, we would miss the opportunity to explore the complexities of other emotions. And when sad things happen--and sad things will happen--we won't know how to comprehend or deal with that feeling.

Kristen has said this to me before in the past, and more recently too: if you're sad, then cry. Allow yourself to fall apart for this moment right now because the more you try to deflect and put up smoke and mirrors to make yourself appear strong, you'll deny yourself the chance to find closure--or at least a peace of mind.

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