The Secret to Possessing Joy

Wow…if I really wanted to, I think I could write a really funny blog about how I am a spirit and I’m about to possess a woman named Joy….this could actually be funny.

Or, this could be about how to shove Joy (the woman) into your pocket and keeping her quiet so that no one would know that Joy is there.  I can just see her….her little hands just over the seam of my pocket’s stitching..

Help me!” she would cry.  And I would shove my hand down into my pocket and shush her.

“Quiet Joy!  You’re distracting me!”  Yeah, that’s what I would do!  Besides, she’s my secret Joy and I don’t want to share her!

Okay, in case you haven’t guessed it, I am in a rather happy mood.  It helps that it’s Friday.  It helps that in one week from now I will be on vacation and will be enjoying some much needed sleep-time.  Also, it helps that I have incredible students and that my stress level is on the decline.

Most of all, I was told yesterday by a friend of mine that I have “perspective.”

My friend is a lovely gentleman named Andrew.  I met him when I used to teach at a local university and he was my student.  Over the course of the class, I learned that he was in New York City on 9/11 and that he was a police officer on that day.  He was at the World Trade Centers.  He stood as a witness to the events.  And he would actually get past the third sentence.

Most of the people I have met who experienced 9/11 first-hand usually give me three sentences (and I am not mocking their pain or acting cynical).

Sentence 1:  I was at/in ________ (fill in the blank with a city).

Sentence 2:  It was awful.

Sentence 3:  I saw __________ (fill in the blank with a horrible event).

Sentence 4:  I have to go now.

And the person usually rushes out of the room and to the bathroom or to some quiet corner where I am not standing so he/she can regain his/her composure and shove the memories back into Pandora’s hands because the box is irreparably broken.

But Andrew…he talks.  He told me stories that day and I invited him to my classroom because my students read the book 102 Minutes and I show them the documentaries and I share with them my experiences but my words don’t have the clarity that Andrew’s has because I was not in New York City or at the Pentagon or at Shanksville, PA on 9/11.  I was in my trailer teaching students and stuck in my snail shell of blissful obliviousness.

I know that I have posted several times about first-world problems and how I know that any problems I have would be labelled as “first-world problems.”  And, I guess that my knowledge of this is what Andrew would label “perspective.”

Today has been an incredible day of joy and the absolute saturation of and immersion within joy.  For no other reason than I woke up and it was Friday.  I know that people would talk about euphoria and try to label this incredible sense of joy as nothing more than neurons firing in a happy order while chemicals in my brain and body trigger energy and a surge of what I would define as joy.

Go for it.  Give me the biological reason.  I love biology…wanted to be a marine biologist until I nearly failed chemistry.  Don’t care.

I had joy.  I had “joy down in my heart.”  Where?  You heard me.  Down in my heart.  Not in my pocket.

And this joy spread today, like an emotional osmosis (see, I told you that I love biology and science) and reached into my students.  Today, one of the two Japanese exchange teachers visited/observed my class and watched my students move from joking and laughing to learning about comparison-contrast to completing comparison-contrast to playing “Train Wreck” in which they did more comparison-contrast.  And every time we discussed any form of an American tradition, we invited the Japanese teacher to give us his insight and to tell us about the Japanese version of the same traditions (student-drivers’ ages, drinking ages, education style).

Today, joy triumphed, even though I watched a video with a handful of students that was taken from the Marriott hotel on 9/11 and showed the jumpers.  Even though I met up with a former student who had just returned from a seven-month tour with the Marines and he talked about coming under fire.  Even though I am exhausted and just want to curl up in my bed and go to sleep.

Joy triumphed today.

The secret to possessing joy is simple.  It is choosing joy.  It is choosing to find the joy that exists in every nook and cranny in this desperate and tragedy-filled world.  It is not choosing to ignore the pain or make light of it.  It is not choosing to tell people that “It’s okay” and “It’s going to be better.”

I do believe in hope.  I’ve said that before.  I will say it again.  However, when a person is depressed and sobbing is the only expression one is capable of making, hearing “It’s going to get better” doesn’t make it any better.  It just makes it worse.

Today, a student, Brett, entered class and his face was illuminated with joy.  After dropping off his stuff, he came up to where I was standing by my podium and greeted me, “Hello, love.”

That is the secret to possessing joy.  It is not holding it.

It is pulling it out of your pocket and quietly giving it to the next person who will then pass it on to the next person and so forth.  And when the one person isn’t capable of passing it forward, that person needs to hold it in the palms of his/her hands and just let joy start to grow, much like a candle flame that has been tossed by the wind.


The Girl and I. Note, she’s a Girl Scout. But she’s no sweet cookie!

And when that doesn’t work, Girl Scout Cookies.  Girl Scout Cookies makes things better too.  I know this.  Because I was searching for a gift for the Japanese exchange teacher and I wanted to give him something quintessentially American.  I gave him a box of Thin Mints.  And I told him it was made with real Girl Scouts.

He loved it.

That’s the secret to possessing mischief.  Pass it on!

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