Joy Just Isn't Cool
Joy just isn’t Cool.
Have you ever met somebody who was not afraid to show pure joy, without inhibition? It is a rare thing. Why is it that we seem less ashamed of our negative attitudes and behavior, than in expressing our delight? I’ve come to the conclusion that joy just isn’t cool. In our need to characterize, we attribute these human expressions as being exclusive to children, the mentally disabled and perhaps the elderly. They are looked at as feeble, unintelligent, or naïve. Children are the very best example of that and the most accessible resource we have for remembering a kinder, happier view of the world. They offer us an awesome opportunity to relive the crazy excitement and easy fun we use to have. We lose that silliness and sense of wonderment as we become more and more jaded by the ‘real’ world. It digs its commercial claws into the meat of our belief system, and then we go about debunking the idea that a watermelon lollipop could ever bring that much joy to a rational, worldly wise being. We unconsciously say to ourselves, “Oh, they’re just a kid, they don’t know any better.” Perhaps they know better than we think.
Somehow we believe that it is foolish or irreverent even, to go along believing that life is truly good. Especially in this economy, or in that situation, or with all the world’s problems, and the struggling to survive…how could anyone be happy? Well, as far as I can tell, this is when unadulterated expressions of joy SHOULD be resorted to more than ever. To believe that we are deserved of feelings of happiness even when we’ve fucked up our lives, or not met that goal, or violated some moral code, is foreign to most of us. We spend our lives attempting to culminate the perfect Petri dish full of material success and achievements. As we keep our eye on the prize, we lose sight of the moments that slip under the door we keep knocking on. The people that fill those moments can slip under that door too if we’re not careful and most especially, our children.
What if I told you that we have had it backwards all these years - within the walls of our hardened hearts? We consider the consistently cheerful or positive people we encounter to be ill informed or equipped to make rational sense of the world, and in their simplicity, are deluded about what entitles us to feel happiness. Truth is, why do we feel on some unconscious level that we need a reason? Happiness is not this state of existence that we finally reach, or are deserved of; but the cumulative moments of quiet or raucous (and often times fleeting) experience, which satiates the soul.
As a former human service professional, working in a direct care and managerial capacity for ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to witness this phenomenon myself on numerous occasion. What stands out most is the public’s reaction to these folks. I guess you could say it was a fascinating period of human study.
I especially enjoyed taking them to church every Sunday, if only to expose the hypocrisy I found within those holy walls. One client in particular was partially deaf and completely uninhibited. When it was time for the hymns; faces turned and people looked and moved away. I learned a tremendous amount about human nature and how strong it’s inclination towards fear is during those times. It seems most that I’ve shared my field experiences with express the feeling that they couldn’t work with that population. The thing is; a person that is able to get THAT excited about pizza night, or a new radio – has something to teach. Whatever or however one might feel the need to label; whether a child, or an elder or someone mentally challenged, they illustrate how to live life raw.
The unfortunate thing is that children don’t stay children. As they grow and are exposed to the ways of the world, they slowly lose that quality too. The world gets a hold of them and they are taught to squelch that raw emotion. They are programmed to contain their joy and excitement about life. Whether it’s due to the school systems and its need to keep our kids ‘in line’ or it comes directly from parents and their own attitudes, they quickly come to understand the world is not a happy place. So how do we help our kids hold on to the best defense they have in their lives?
Well, as parents I think it begins by making an effort to reclaim this sense of awe and wonder we abandoned in puberty. To do that, it’s simply a matter of practicing the art of gratitude. It begins with us. When we stop and take the time to evaluate our lives, outside of our personal circumstances and individual problems, it’s easy to recognize the many things we have to smile about. Our health, our children’s health, the job we have, food on the tables, a roof over our head, the ability to share our talents with the world – whatever it is, there is something to be grateful for; always. This is such a powerful way to stay connected to our kids, and also, to attract more and more things to be grateful for.
Their lives depend on it. While their hearts are still open, we need to show them what it is to be grateful and in the moment. Talk to your child about how funny the cash register girl was, or how nice the man was for opening the door, or how much you’re enjoying them, or the food you’re eating, or the new sweater you’re wearing. Whatever you can do to shine the light on your own process of appreciation for them, is key. It might feel strange at first, but this is absolutely the best way to show your children the art of being grateful. The great part about stepping into that role as a teacher is that you become the student as well and begin to deepen your own understanding of the world. You will begin to feel a shift in your own life, and the results will be exponential! I promise you.
The truth is; it’s not in a dinner prayer, or with an obligatory prescription to say please and thank you that kids can really grasp this concept. We really have to be the ones to provide an example. It’s THE most important tool we can fill our kid’s toolboxes with. When we show them the ability to be grateful in the face of scarcity, or the courage to rise above the bullshit days and smile and be joyful in spite of them, we equip them with the ability to overcome all odds. Every life situation is an opportunity to teach, whether it be a difficult one or not. The alternative is that they too will grow to believe that - “Joy just isn’t cool.”