Joyful, Joyful

I do not live a joyful life.

Don’t cry for me. This isn’t some sad state I mistakenly slipped into. At some point, I grew tired of dizzying heights followed by catastrophic lows and traded it all for steadiness. I needed a life that worked. That didn’t require much to function on a day-to-day basis.

Low-maintenance.

Dirty words in this “I deserve it all” era, but I’ve never mastered wanting without tallying the cost of my desires. Once I decided I didn’t have “all” to give, I started shopping for a life I could easily afford.

“The world is a rather awful place, love. Best to meet it on its own terms.”

So said Klaus Mikaelson on an episode of The Originals, and for a millennia-old psychopathic vampire-werewolf hybrid on a CW drama the man had a point. An applicable ethos for a girl whose lows pull her under and wring her out.

But, here’s the good thing about this approach:

I so rarely experience joy that when it comes, I never take it for granted.

And right now, stretched on a futon an hour outside of Honolulu, a sunrise over the Pacific and crowing roosters just outside my window…

This is fucking joy.

the bad place

When the world explodes into chaos, my instincts send me inward; so I’ve been quiet here for the last couple of weeks. As self-centered as I am, I don’t believe in the power of a single voice in a din of pain and outrage, so when everyone shouts the obvious thing — that Black people are flesh and blood, heart and soul, worthy of humanity — I fall back and let them.

There isn’t much more to add.

Except.

I have a pragmatic voice in my head that demands I see the world as it is and that voice confirmed long ago that the world is a terrible place. There are bright spots, for sure. Kindness and generosity and love and unity and beauty and comfort, but they’re interruptions in an otherwise dark and cruel existence.

It’s why I have the title of the Langston Hughes poem Life is Fine tattooed on my wrist; as a reminder that all over the world, beauty and terror co-exist so life is never all shit or all roses. It just… is.

So the current state of the world doesn’t jar me. I know how that sounds, but I promised I’d stop being ashamed of my truth, so there it is. I am watching it all with detached curiosity.

Yes. History shows that things fall apart. Who are we to believe we’re exempt?

it is what it is

In the last few years of my internet life, I’ve witnessed a collective groan over the phrase “it is what it is.” For people who want to know you’re human, want to see an emotional reaction to uncomfortable situations, and want some proactive measures taken to make them comfortable again, the phrase feels dismissive.

I understand. Even if I don’t always agree.

The thing, though, is we’re in an “it is what it is” situation. There is no amount of emoting, reframing, or pleas to “do something” that will put our lives back in their neat, easy-to-recognize containers. Your social life? Gone. Your self-care routines? If they involve public spaces, throw them out of the window. Your plans and goals? You may as well light them on fire.

We are in unprecedented territory and it seems the people best equipped to deal with it are those of us who never abandoned “it is what it is” as a mantra.

You will be inconvenienced. You will be bored. You will have to figure out how to live with considerably less freedom of movement. And the trajectory of the moment can change on a dime.

The best thing we can do for ourselves, it seems, is accept reality on a day-to-day basis. Last week, it was “wash your fucking hands.” This week, it’s “schools are closed and keep your asses out of bars and restaurants.” We can guess what comes next, but getting attached to any hypothetical scenario is unwise.

Because we just don’t know.

And it is what it is.