Joy in January: Why it says 'joy bringer' on my business card
Between dark mornings, diets and a pay day that seems like it's never going to come, January can be bleak. So, to brighten up your new year we're looking at ways to find joy every day...
When I was struggling to articulate what to write as an occupation for my business card, my dear friend suggested I just put 'Joy Bringer'. It seemed a little presumptuous, but certainly more pithy than writing 'writer, performer, fashion activist, creator of wearable art, town eccentric...' so after overcoming some reservations I went with it.
It got me pondering the idea of being a person who 'brings joy', and as I waited for the cards to arrive from the designer I wondered if I'd be able to live up to such a title. The first thought I let go of was that I had to bring joy to everyone – that's just never going to happen. We're a diverse lot us humans, and what one person finds joyful, another may find abhorrent. (I mean, there are people in this world for whom darts brings joy!)
My brand of joy is as multi-faceted as I am. Some people take joy in my candour (I'm a chronic over-sharer), others in my near-daily photos of the colourful outfits I wear. Some take joy in the stories I post about life with my (many, many) kids – though that might be more the 'thank-goodness I'm not her' kind of joy?
It's been five years since I first started giving people my Joy Bringer cards and an interesting trend has emerged in that time. I've found that the more pleasure a person takes from receiving my card, the more likely they are to be open to my brand of joy. When someone takes the time to look at it and their face doesn't light up, I know that this is a person who is probably not open to what I have to offer. It's been a remarkably reliable "tell" in that regard.
Some people take my declaration to be a Joy Bringer as a personal affront. How very dare I lay claim to such a title? But those who are open to it are often delighted by it. It's silly, it's fun, it's not meant to be taken seriously – and that in itself brings joy. It tickles me that the card on its own brings joy.
I think of these responses in terms of how gymnasts are scored in the Olympics, smiles and sparkly eyes upon seeing my card is like the person holding up a nine card and disinterest is a big, fat zero card. One woman was so enamoured with my card that she held it to her nose and sniffed it; she said she was expecting it to smell nice too (she was a 10 btw).
Joy is different things for different people. For me it's a feeling of lightness, an irreverence, taking delight in something simple or beautiful. It is part of my daily practice to look for joy all around me. It's in a carefully crafted Tweet about politics, spotting an elderly couple holding hands and the feeling when you take off your day shoes and put on your fluffy socks and slippers.
I look for things to give my heart a lift and I look for ways to give that lift to others. When I read a good news story I take a minute after to dwell on the good fortune of the person involved and to wish them well. I love hearing people's good news and their exciting projects, it reminds me of all the good in the world.
When life is at its most difficult it can be hard to remember, or even be in the mood, to look for joy. How I get through the really tough times is by telling myself stories about what's happening. I try and make them funny. I imagine a time down the line when I'll be telling the story of what's happening right now.
Like when I was driving on a country road with all the kids in the car when the muffler brace broke. An investigation found that it was half on the ground and my options were to try and tie it back up, try and break the other brace and take it off altogether or drive home super slowly trailing the muffler. I decided to try and tie it up (after I had a little cry, as this was the fifth car disaster I'd had in as many months). After a search of the car I had to face the fact that the only thing I had that could even possibly do the job was my son's earphones. So I lay on my back in the dirt, in my lovely vintage dress and I used a pair of headphones to tie up the muffler so I could get home. And it worked. I did it.
To not break down with stress and worry at the time that happened I started telling the story to myself as if it was just another funny Taryn's escapades anecdote (which now, it is). Humour is how I manage to find a bit of joy in almost every situation – and I'm incredibly lucky that I've found a tool that works for me.
We all need to find our own path to joy. My way will not work for the masses, each of us knows ourselves best and learning what brings us joy – or even just what brings us calm – is a really useful life skill to have.
I'm presuming that if you've made it this far you were't turned off by my calling card and thus you might be open to my offerings. If so, I gently suggest spending a few weeks compiling a list of things/places/people/experiences that bring you joy.
And then, you know – doing more of that.