Insolent Joy

Today I’m going to be daring. I am, in the middle of a global pandemic, national and local rioting, personal sorrows and tribulations, going to write about joy. The last 8+ years, this blog has been a bit of a chronicle. For much of the last couple of years, I’ve felt like a woman of constant sorrows. It would be an easier place to stay, short term. Over the long term, should I become less practiced at experiencing pleasure, joy, light, it will ruin my health, perhaps my relationships, and will fill me with regret at the time wasted. We do not know what tomorrow brings. There is only today. And today, I’m going to focus on joy.

amenonmememeIt’s a fine balance between refreshing the inner sanctum and recognizing the pain in the world. It is possible to do both. I know I could break and then I’ll be no good to anyone. And I want to be useful in this world, not just a handwringer or an ostrich. I have some basic tenets to keep myself from going off the deep end (and these coincide with how I deal with depression).

Deal with Your Own Reality

SparrowatFeederI should be protesting. I should be volunteering. I should, should, should… I have these thoughts fifty times a day. My reality is that I’m exhausted. My reality is that I have big worries on my plate inside my own house. My reality is that I’m barely figuring out how to help myself, much less anyone else. I need to accept that I have limitations. Once I do that, then I can figure out how to help someone else on terms that I can meet.

And I did.

Help Someone Else

Through Pandemic of Love, an organization that connects people in need with people who can help, I was able to help out a family hit economically by the pandemic. On top of that, they were living in an area where the riots had blown through. They’d just gotten back from cleaning up some of the mess. I asked “What are you most worried about this morning?” and I was able to offer help. The beauty of helping someone is that it is never entirely altruistic. It takes you out of your self, out of your own sorrows.

Look for Beauty

BeeI’m learning photography the hard way. For all these years of gardening, I decided I’d learn how to take pictures. I got the kit. I have the instruction manual. I am awful. Enjoy as I start seeding pictures into the blog. Look for the blurry and slightly blurry plants, ghost birds, off-centered bees, and flowers I can’t remember the names of. Enjoy. I know I will.

I’ve been listening to Traci K. Smith on The Slowdown podcast. I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t take in as much poetry as I should, considering my love of language. These snippets of living language have been inspiring and comforting. I turn to books that are balm for the soul like Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights or a collection called Poems to Live by in Uncertain Times. I’ve also watched Some Good News (hosted by The Office’s John Krasinski) and listen to the Kind World podcasts. Anything to balance out the onslaught of bad news.

Keeping up with the news, or not.

As glued as I’ve been to the news, I’m focused on learning. So far, I’ve learned that there are more whackadoodle conspiracy theorists posing as normal humans than I first suspected. The fact that they’ve remained hidden as long as they have is suspicious. I think it might have to do with Cornflakes, a confederate battlefield, and pitching signals – especially the right ear tug.

dandelionI’ve met a lot of racists in my life, but I’ve never met someone who belonged to an antifa organization. I’m an organization of one, decidedly against facism. That this president wants me to be designated a terrorist seems right on point for 2020. He’s Tweeting from his bunker, which I imagine to be full of toilet paper, blaring televisions, and blubbering sycophants.

Watching the news, drinking in the feeds, trying to sort the loons from the dimwits, it really can make a reasonable person quite nuts. If you’ve hit the angry, spluttery stage (me about three years ago), time to step back and give yourself a break. Let your brain settle into normalcy, use good judgment, call a friend, take a nap, do a logic puzzle. Then when you return to the news, you’ll realize how absolutely nuts the world is and stagger off the grid for even longer.

In the face of uncertainty and anger…

There is something revolutionary about focusing on solutions, on what we want as a society and doing things that help that. There’s no point in arguing with people who are proud of their accidents of birth – in what country, with a particular skin color, with whatever anatomical arrangement. There’s a lot of weird braggadocio on the internet. That’s how they’ve chosen to see themselves and how they classify others. That’s not your problem.

GaliumEven though we’re being pummeled with political rhetoric, life is not politics. Your minute-to-minute isn’t red or blue. It’s who you are as a rational, compassionate human being. You get to be that. This is why I think of it as insolent joy. It’s defiant. People would like you to be unhappy. They’re unhappy and they can’t think of any other way around that than to ensure that others are miserable as well. You can be impassioned about the world. You can work to make a difference. But you don’t have to be miserable 24/7. No victory will happen with that kind of energy.

Holy cow. I’ve talked myself into being uber-positive. Sometimes people like me make me sick. It’s how I do my pep talks to myself – I write to you. I’ve been in the dumps a long time and the world is not about to lend me a hand out of that. We rescue ourselves, we rescue each other – that’s really all the world has to be.

31 thoughts on “Insolent Joy

  1. Best line ever: “Sometimes people like me make me sick.”

    I love that you are trying photography. Perhaps someday you too will find people fleeing from you in terror as you wield your mighty Canon at them. (I think they would be less terrified of an actual cannon, they are considerably harder to aim and less unflattering of rearview shots.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I actually have very little interest in photographing people, so no one needs to run away. Those bees, butterflies, and birds, though – they don’t like sitting still. People see me in my front garden hopping about like a nut job trying to get a good shot.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your insolent joy!! CNN have a good news newsletter every Saturday morning. I subscribed back in the Fall when I’d had my fill of negativity and I highly recommend it. It’s all about ordinary people being kind, compassionate and generous — and every edition also has a “shameless animal video” that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been watching a lot of animal videos this week – good alternates between reading bad news stories. And wow, so many of them are bad. I’ve also been setting time limits on my news perusing. Informed, without being overwhelmed and depressed. It’s a delicate balance!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joy. You are talking my language now. I have sat with long term care residents who are dying, and I am convinced that joy and sorrow are the ties that bind us as one.
    They exist side by side.
    Amidst the struggles, small pockets of hope. That is joy.
    Your writing always moves me. You must write a book – it is your calling. (You know it, too.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make a point that I wish a lot more people understood – these pockets of joy are what make everything bearable.
      Ah the clarion call of the book – I get people telling me at least once a week that I need to write that book. I’m not ready for one that involves me, but am working on fiction. Maybe someday…

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Very funny, Luanne. At this point, I feel like I’d been drowning and had to throw myself a lifeline. The ability to find moments of joy is absolutely critical for all of us right now. Do the hard work, but take some moments to laugh, to pause, to sit still in the moment.


  4. WTG Michelle! I’ve been a proponent of joy, and the need to feel it and spread it for many years. What a different world it would be if we were all practising joy. I’m reminded of someone who once commented to me what a beautiful sunny day it is and then admitted to feeling guilty because of the problem of climate change. Just enjoy the day dammit!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m always very hesitant to go on about joy, because so many people struggle to see their way clear of the clouds. It starts getting wrapped up with the idea of privilege. Sure, it’s easy to find joy if you’re not worried where you’re going to live or get food. But I’ve also seen studies in poverty and war-stricken countries where people rate their happiness fairly high. It’s more a mindset than external condition, a practice we can carry with us, no matter what is happening around us.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been thinking about you and all my friends in the Twin Cities. I get updates from my brother in Bemidji, who reports without hyperbole. I just can’t imagine it. I love you & THANK you for The Slow Down link.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey Sandy, I dropped off the planet for a week, trying to get myself sorted. I recently lost my last pet, my big tomcat Pete, so I’ve been having some down time. Glad you like that link. It is bite-sized escapism without the guilt. I’ll drop you an email this week.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sometimes you have to put out your intentions to the universe. Intentions of happiness and joy, and truly believe it. We have to make a conscious choice. Light attracts light; dark attracts dark. Just my thoughts!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I tend to steer away from the concept of “putting things out in the universe” (I did not like The Secret), but I get your point. Conscious choice followed by deliberate action (no matter how small). Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!


  7. We need to find joy and happiness and see the good things and kindness of people to not be drown by all the sorrow and pain in this world. It is wonderful that you helped this family and find joy and happiness in it. I always hope that helping someone will initiate that this people help someone else and this someone else also helps another person or persons. Your picture of the bee and flower is wonderful. Would you send it via email?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think what we often forget is that the spirit to resolve the pain and sadness in the world is rooted in love – love of the joys we do have. If we forget our joys, if we stop experiencing those moments, what would motivate us to make the world better?
      I can send you that picture, if you’d like – like the bee, it’s quite fuzzy. Just drop your email on my Contact page and I’ll send it to you.


  8. The concept of “insolent joy” is one of resistance … resistance to passivity in the face of so much that ails our world. It’s an even more powerful antidote than “being present” or “practicing detachment.” Thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I’m 100% on board with many of the points you make here. In particular, I like what you said about being happy and helping other people. I’ve learned that you can’t help anyone if you are miserable. It takes an effort to be happy. It’s easy to be unhappy. As you point out, there is a fine line between following your bliss and ignoring the pain of others. I haven’t come close to mastering that one yet, but I’m working on it.

    Liked by 2 people

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