Today I just need to write. It might not be very well thought out or edited, but hopefully writing this will get it out of my head so I can focus on the next crisis:
I don’t think it would be too far reaching to say that joy is hard to come by nowadays. We’re almost 2 full years into a global pandemic and Omicron is swiftly ruining holidays with extreme speed. It is not at all easy to be happy right now, never mind “festive”, and yet we’re still out here trying because what else is there? Christmas is coming up and advertisements make it seem like business as usual; but is it really?
In 2020 I was so excited for this year’s holiday season, expecting that we’d be back with friends and family in person again. With talks of a vaccine on the horizon, it didn’t seem at all plausible that we’d be spending yet another December held captive by Covid’s spell. And then, almost a full year after Delta inserted itself where it certainly wasn’t welcomed Omicron arrives. I’ve been in denial ever since, even when I recently ended up having to cancel my trip home to England thanks to new isolation rules coming into effect the day I would have landed.
I find it just about impossible to believe that this variant is taking over the planet at such rapid speeds. It’s all changed so quickly. We know when the pandemic started but we have zero idea when it will end. Only a month ago there was talk about things getting better. Everyone had more hope. It was easy enough during the first lockdown to stop dining out, stop shopping, stop seeing people. When we were completely unable to do things, at least we knew the score. It sucked a lot, but it had a definitive start date. Every beginning has an end, right? Not so much when it comes to Covid-19. How soon is too soon to drop certain safety protocols? Can we plan that social gathering? Can we afford the rising cost of everything? Should I really hug that friend or go to that new restaurant or go the game? What’s the right thing to do? What’s the wrong thing? We’re back to doubting ourselves and our own risk tolerance.
Just like before vaccines, we’re back to living in extreme uncertainty. That Mexico vacation I was ready to book in February? Likely going without that again, though my constantly pained body requires intense sunshine to take pause and recover. That casual Christmas drop-in event I bought too much food for this weekend? Likely cancelled. Seeing family around the end of the month? Likely nope. Everything is constantly up in the air and yet we’re still expected to perform. To create. To put on a happy face. To do all of the things that were already too much for our nervous systems before the pandemmy even existed.
I think we’re all a bit (a lot) shell shocked right now due to this new variant blindsiding us when hope was returning. In non vaccine-starved countries we were supposed to be getting excited for boosters, booking winter holidays, and reuniting with long missed friends and family, eating just enough mini sausage rolls and rum with egg nog to temporarily forget about this whole mess for at least a few hours. Viruses don’t care how much you missed your family though. They don’t care about your mental health. They don’t care that the weight of everything is burning you out, making everything 10x as hard as it should be, with no end in sight. In fact, they don’t care about you at all.
On top of Covid, the world is burning and flooding and twisting and blowing. The visible effects of climate change are honestly terrifying right now and the refusal by those in power to take action is equal parts maddening and heartbreaking. We have the answers to fix so many problems in the world and our societies and governments barely ever make change. It’s one step forward, three steps back more often than not lately. To try to live and function in this world as a compassionate person, surrounded by people who don’t care about anyone but themselves; it’s a constant mountain of a molehill to climb. The exhaustion is just never-ending right now. If you’re feeling that, my gosh know that you’re in the norm.
So we’re likely losing our holiday get togethers. Some will also literally lose people they might have seen at theirs. Suicides are up. Drug overdoses are up. Relationship tensions are up. Burn out is up. It’s more than ok to not feel festive right now; really it’s ok to admit that it’s hard enough to feel anything positive at all. Me? I’m feeling helpless and claustrophobic. Constantly aware of the growing lack of clarity. The lack of certainty. Getting mentally stuck on the fact that the world has changed significantly more than I think any of us can actually realize. Fighting with my brain when it tries to remember the world before Covid and starts to fritz out because it feels like another lifetime.
Outside of mental health, the levels of pain from my illnesses have been at an all time high lately. I’m afraid to use my body like I used to and feeling incredibly trapped by that lack of confidence. I want to be strong but every single movement now hurts thanks to the constant stress my nervous system is fighting. How can I voluntarily lift the weights I so used to enjoy when, even just the empty motion can cause a pain flare-up that lasts for days? My energy is long gone, making happiness often feel like an impossible target. That energy loss is a million times larger for healthcare and other essential workers. For parents, for teachers, for students. For anyone carrying additional loads thanks to this pandemic. How are any of us supposed to to exist in this constant state of purgatory?
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. We keep going because we must, I suppose. I have no vision of the present that doesn’t involve suffering somehow. Life will always have a lot of heartache in it; that’s just how everything has always worked. The weight of that heartache at the moment though; none of us should be carrying even a tiny portion of it. It’s so very heavy that finding joy nowadays can feel like a hard to reach goal. It used to show up randomly, in pure moments of freedom, but now it has to be mined for, like a tiny gemstone at the bottom of the deepest cavern. Or the smallest piece of gold in them there hills that you have to swim down and down and down to retrieve.
And what is joy, truly? Is it an emotion that everyone experiences the same way? Is it an umbrella term for so many different versions of happiness? Of love? Is it natural? Can we manufacture it? Is it expensive? Can it be free? Why do some people feel more of it than others? And how can we harness it to fight the melancholy that is existing in the world during this horrific moment in time?
I don’t know what joy looks like for everyone else but I can tell you how and where I find it and sometimes where I have to forge it on demand. I hope that maybe my non-exhaustive random list of things I try and find joy in right now will help you notice more instances of it in your own lives, big and small.
We have to do absolutely everything that we can to not only feel joy nowadays, but also to create it and to care for it as a community. The world is trying so hard to take it from all of us, and we must persevere together to create joy in as many ways as we can. It doesn’t have to be big; to be extravagant. It can be a sound, a smell, a feeling, a texture, a taste. It can be a single instance in time or something you do repetivitely.
The struggle we face right now makes it harder to see the forest for the trees. It’s there though. I promise you.
If you’ve made it this far, here’s a sample list of where I find joy when I’m able:
- The almost impossibly soft spot of fur behind every cat’s ears;
- Sunshine through a winter’s window;
- Validation from someone I lust for and / or care about;
- How we always prep each other’s toothbrushes before bed;
- Ice cream;
- Photos of my favourite people. My favourite places;
- A client securing their next home with my help;
- Dogs. Do you ever just look at dogs?
- My 12 foot skeleton dressed up as Father Christmas and the smiles they brings people;
- When I’m an absolute trollop on my close friends list and a select group of people respond with continued enthusiasm and encouragement;
- Specific male friendships;
- Horror movies;
- My new love of THC pills, after decades of hating weed;
- Watching Steph sit happily in the sun on his lunch break when it’s 0 degrees out;
- Listening to Jory do anything at work where he’s extremely engaged;
- Train to Mexico by Toby Sebastian;
- Weekly Corrections on Seth Meyer’s show;
- The moment my percocet kicks in and I can feel less pain for at least a little while;
- Being able to secure those drugs that literally help me stay alive;
- My obsession with leopard print, the sexiest neutral;
- My new tattoos and the mistakes from my past ones;
- When my limits are pushed and I complain though we both know I want it;
- Being able to help people in need now that I finally have the means to do so;
- Lemmie and The Bird’s Papaya. IYKYK;
- Photos of my Mum in her brightly coloured clothing, smiling wildly, even when her body hurts;
- Jory and Steph working together, doing stuff, being supportive;
- The thrill of new lovers;
- Realizing that I’m the best at sex that I’ve ever been;
- Corgis and their corgi butts;
- Glitter nail polish always;
- All of the colourful things in my house that are so pleasing to look at;
- Brightly hued eyeshadow and long liquid wings;
- Visits and gossip with my osteopath;
- Despacito forever;
- Any and all of my sexy playlists;
- The relationships I’ve deepened during the pandemic;
- The feeling of being truly satisfied and also challenged in my career for the first time ever in my life;
- Baseball. And Teoscar Hernandez;
- Wait, I forgot George Springer;
- Hang on, I mean the entire Blue Jays team, let’s be real;
- The way Sherry (cat) asks us for her bird TV show or to be played with or for food;
- When Ruby (cat) comes to sit next to me on the couch, waiting for me to rub foreheads with her and scratch behind her ears;
- Having the time and energy to help people with housing questions;
- Feeling desired;
- Intimacy in its many forms;
- Anything and everything that raccoons do;
- Coming home when crossing the tracks and not getting stuck behind a train;
- The simplicity of Weetabix and blueberries;
- Some big (secret currently) family news. No I’m not pregnant;
- Watching my framily as parents;
- Driving all over the city. Learning so many new favourite spots;
- The attention of kind but stern attractive men;
- Thoughts of femme lips, femme eyes, femme touch;
- When Steph and I got high last week (related, he never ever does), and how long we laughed at him asking if one of the ingredients in Ryvita Snackbread was … bread;
- Seeing more people than ever finally start to live their truths; one silver lining to the panini;
- Underwear and a inflatable T-rex head;
- Discovering the non-monogamous relationships and feelings I wished I’d had the first time around;
- Singing Meatloaf songs at the top of my lungs;
- Booking our booster shots;
- Beginning the process of hopefully getting my ADHD diagnosis;
- Recognizing my mistakes and focusing on what I can learn from them;
- Super fresh McDonald’s fries;
- Grapes. Do they know how perfect they are;
- Remembering my accomplishments. I wrote a book! I created a conference! I built a community;
- Accepting how much I love astrology;
- Cinnamon and smiles and compliments;
- When people in the fast lane actually move out of my way before someone impatient goes around them;
- Mini candy canes, but especially the ones that have been aging for a few years to the perfect level of softness;
- Extremely vulnerable conversations with people I treasure;
- Letting go of people that I don’t;
- Working with Jory to help understand his autism and how we can be better together;
- Noticing how I’ve changed;
- Crusty bread, butter, english cheddar, and Branston pickle;
- Lingerie and the requests that go along with it;
- Multi-coloured pens;
- Heated seats in the car;
- 90s hip-hop and R&B;
- Compliments from fellow Realtors about my professionalism;
- Multi-layered folded chips;
- Being more intentional about my music choices;
- Wellington Paranormal;
- And, finally …
You, if you’ve made it this far. You deserve all the joy you can find.