This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Theme for 2022 was My Vinyl Record Collection. For the 2023 Challenge I'll be doing something similar with my home book collection. Lots of book stuff from A to Z

Friday, July 20, 2012

I'm Happy And I Know It...Now What?: Guest Hijacker Jericha Senyak

        Guest Hijacker Jericha Senyak can be found at her blog The Museum of Joy.  Like Tossing It Out, her blog is a rather eclectic blog.  Keep in mind that for this post Jericha has hijacked my blog with her writing and her ideas.  These ideas may not necessarily reflect my own, but I welcome the opportunity for others to express their opinions and philosophies.  Do visit Jericha's site for more information about her array of interests and thought.

I'm Happy And I Know It...Now What?
This is basically me. By Davies up North on Flickr
         I am naturally gifted with optimism. I don't mean gifted in the sense of talented; I mean it in the sense that the universe gave it to me as a gift, way back when I was a wee one. It was a present, bestowed upon me basically at random, not something I earned or specially deserved. I just had it - this great capacity for joyousness, this strange ability to experience delight in what seemed to be a greater magnitude than everyone around me. In a weird, subtle way it was almost like, well, some kind of superpower. Especially when I got to college and I was surrounded by hundreds of angsty, miserable, anguished young people, and there I was, going around being happy all the time. And honestly? For a long time I felt supremely guilty about it. It didn't seem fair. I hadn't done anything to merit getting to be happier than other people. There were plenty of wonderful folks I knew who deserved far more joy than they were getting, and here I was, bouncing blithely along, hogging all the happiness.

       Maybe that sounds strange to you - happiness is a glorious thing, after all! Why feel guilty about it? Well, to me, joyousness feels like a kind of "impossible good news," as Chesterton says, and an inherent part of experiencing it is that I want to open that experience to everyone around me. It throws open the doors of the soul, blows a bright wind through my being, and makes me want to invite everyone in! Except, of course, I didn't have the least clue how to do it, and meanwhile I was watching all these people suffering and the best I felt I could offer was something stupid along the lines of "Don't worry! Be happy!" - which is probably one of the single most frustrating and obnoxious things you can possibly be told if you're feeling bad.

This is basically my deal. You are more than welcome to
disagree with any part of this. Via Dammit Janet!
        You can't tell somebody about joy and expect them to feel it, any more than you can tell somebody about religion and expect them to believe it. I knew that, but I still found it confusing and frustrating to go around with this intense sense of wonder in my chest that nobody else seemed to share expect in momentary bits and flashes, with no way to understand why I had it and others didn't. I told myself that if the universe had decided to give it to me, I'd better behave in a way that was worthy of the honor, and that meant doing my very best to share it, to give it away, to open it up to others at every opportunity. In other words, if I was grateful for the gift, I had better pass it on. If I tried to hoard it, or just accept it as mine by some unknown right, maybe the universe would see fit to take it away.

       But I wasn't about to try and make anybody happy. (By 21 I'd seen enough friends and loved ones suffer from depression to know that that just doesn't work.) I just didn't know what to do, and in the meantime, my secret feeling that I was clearly supposed to be using this power made me feel like a smarmy, self-righteous, obnoxiously cheerful, namby-pamby jerk. Like, "Aw, I'm so happy and everyone else is so sad! It must be my job to tell everyone else how great happiness is!"The fact that this seemed to be my most crushing spiritual problem made me feel even more guilty. Man, people out there have real problems, and you're worrying that the universe might take your good feelings away if you don't hand them out like damn Happy Candy? Really, Jericha? That's your problem? Could you get any more trivial?

        And then, a few months ago, when I was just starting out on my blog and looking for inspiration, I stumbled across a lovely post on Scoutie Girl by the thoughtful & talented Gwyn Michael called Learning to see again. the beauty in the breakdown. Some of her first words in the post hit me right in the gut. "I have been blessed with an uncanny capacity for optimism," she wrote, and in my brain something went zing! because, you see, I'd never once heard anyone else say that but me. Her post (which you should read, because it is wonderfully inspiring and beautifully written) was basically about the fact that she sees it as her prerogative to spread joy because, well, the world is a pretty dark place a lot of the time and we all forget how to see the beauty in it sometimes and dammit, we need help. But the real reason her post meant so much to me was that her experience came out of suffering. She writes,

"The year I was thirteen I lost my father to suicide, my bedroom and all my belongings to a house fire, and whatever hope was left in my mother. It was a sad, sad year and shaped me in many ways. I remember coming into the house after the fire and looking into the shell of my room. Most everything was gone, but on the wall were the melted remains of a yellow princess phone dripping down onto the charred carpet. It was somehow beautiful in my eyes and I became fascinated by the beauty in the unexpected."

Here is a beautiful image from her post.
        In her eyes, as in mine, her natural capacity for joy and her desire to share it weren't some Pollyanna-ish unwillingness to acknowledge that darkness and despair exist, but rather a sense that seeing beauty is as deep a part of the human experience as suffering. And whatever bleakness surrounds us, when we manage to find our way towards focusing on the things that are beautiful and meaningful to us, well, something kind of magical happens. It's hard to do this, and it doesn't come naturally to most people, but maybe, just maybe, those of us for whom it is easier can do our best to lend a hand. At the very top of her post, she wrote,

What is mine to do in the world is to awaken people to other ways
of seeing. To inspire hope where there is doubt, love where there is pain.

This is also totally me! Except with
CHAMPAGNE. Via Sunset Magazine
       Hearing this coming from somebody who had suffered terrible things and still believed in this, well, it made me think about it a little differently. It gave me a sense that maybe I wasn't being so nicey-nice and self-righteous and pacifying in feeling like well, this is what I've got. Of course, in some ways, it's still hard for me to accept this as the thing I'm supposed to do, because it seems so, well, prideful, this idea that I could awake anyone to anything. Who the hell am I to think I know how to open somebody's eyes? But really, the point is that I don't. I have no idea whatsoever. Here I am, a sparkling champagne fountain full of joyousness for no good reason whatsoever other than I was born that way, and boy oh boy is it not my job to try and force you to drink. ("But it's AWESOME! I SWEAR! just TRY it, you'll LIKE it!") Nope.

Just doing my best to look meaningful in the snow, here.

Is this awesome or pretentious? Via Favim.
     Instead, I have to think about it like this: if I was a really violent, cruel, rage-filled, bitter, vicious person, would I influence the lives of people around me without even trying? Damn right I would. Would people look at me and feel like the world was maybe a yuckier place than they'd thought after I did something casually horrible to them, or just walked past radiating nastiness? Heck yes. So then, why do I think that somehow I'll mysteriously not influence people by doing my best to be honestly, fully, genuinely joyous? Why am I so convinced that people will look at me and feel bitter instead of better? I don't think it's a terrible concern to have, really - I don't want to march around like some kind of Queen of Awesome Happytown, looking out of my Wonder Carriage and scattering scraps of minor contentment as largesse. If I start thinking I can save anybody, I'm in serious trouble. No, if I'm going to add anything to this universe, I've got to be something more like a lighthouse, maybe, or the lamp in the window on a dark night, or the sun coming out on a gray day: just a steady, quiet beacon, not telling anything, not teaching anything, just a steady, honest manifestation of lightness and warmth in the midst of gloom, saying, I am no less real than the darkness. 

      In all of this, what came to the surface in me was the desire to build a museum that celebrates the human experience of joy. We have a lot of spaces dedicated to general history, and a lot of spaces dedicated to the memory and experience of suffering and death. We don't have many places that honor and memorialize the millions of ancient, ongoing, cross-cultural experiences of gladness, wonder, and delight. I know perfectly well the world is full of pain and fear and anger. I don't think joyfulness is better than that, or more right, or more true. My wariness to share and express joy came from my fear of being seen as someone who was trying to overwrite or deny the ugly things about existence, a happy person casually dismissing others' experiences of unhappiness or telling them that they were wrong or foolish or not trying hard enough if they weren't just being happy, like meeeee! But I think Gwyn Michael is absolutely right when she speaks in her post of her belief that "in helping people to see in a more positive way, we give them hope and that gives them power. When we feel powerful we are motivated to work and to change."

       It's so easy to forget that no matter what happens, what suffering overwhelms us, the universe is still full of wonder too. That's maybe the very strangest thing about existence: that somehow, the darkness and the brightness don't cancel each other out. They're just both there, both part of us. One is not more true than the other, and we need to remember and honor and work to understand both. I think there's plenty of people already working on suffering; I think the world could use a few more on the side of joy. What do you think?

      Have you ever had the experience of feeling like you've been given something you desperately want to share, create, pass on, or work with, but felt like you couldn't or shouldn't act on that deep desire? What was it? What did you do?

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  1. This post really filled me with feelings of happiness because your optimism is infectious and so genuine that I can't help but share it even though I'm usually a "Derek Downer," haha.

    Great post in general Jericha, to actively go out of your way to spread that joy and natural optimism is truly awesome and I wish you the best in everything.

  2. Wow, you touched on my emotions today. I, and a few other female family members are optimists. We're always noticing the great things in our lives. We love humor, and do things to make ourselves laugh. I, like all people, have gone through some horrific times, but always joy rises through the pain. I never thought of it as a gift before. And I think just 'being' joyful is all you have to do.

  3. Arlee, thanks for introducing me to Jericha.

    While appreciate life, I worry too much to be joyful. This was an interesting perspective for me to read. I should try to relax and enjoy more.

  4. Wonderful post. A real pleasure to read

  5. As someone who leans toward worry and "dark," as someone who strives to be positive and focused on the good out there and inside myself, this was my favorite part -

    "That's maybe the very strangest thing about existence: that somehow, the darkness and the brightness don't cancel each other out. They're just both there, both part of us. One is not more true than the other, and we need to remember and honor and work to understand both."

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Enjoyed this very much today, thanks, Jericha and Lee.

    I've always tended to have a positive and happy nature. In 2006 two of my adult children died in an accident, which was the most horrible thing imaginable for any parents.

    What I've found in my journey thru grief and healing their death is that I could see that their death didn't have to be a lifetime of endless misery for me.

    Then thru the eyes of a new found perspective that I had never had before I began to explore a deeper more richer feeling for life that I had ever experienced before.

    And when the grief lifted some years later, there it was... my was back!

  7. Wow, I can't imagine at thirteen, losing a father, a home, and a mother to sadness and process it so well. Most people would crawl into darkness, drugs, etc...
    You should be proud. You are inspiring.

  8. Great post! Glad to know I'm not the only one with happy issues.


  9. i too feel hopeful most of the time and consider myself an optimist---i feel it comes from my faith---i have seen more beauty and utter joy in the strangest most darkest times----very interesting post!!

  10. I am now, inexplicably, having flashes of Ren & Stimpy.

  11. Lee, thanks so much for hosting me. It's an honor.

    YeamieWaffles: Thank you for the kind wishes! If I'm getting through to a self-proclaimed Derek Downer, I must be doing something right :)

    Em-Musing: I'm always glad to know there are others out there. It's a beautiful experience to feel "joy rise through the pain," as you so eloquently put it.

    Theresa: I know it can be hard to relax and enjoy! It helps me if I try to remember that the wonder and beauty of life is what makes the worry worth it.

    Yvonne: Thank you!

    Madeline: I'm so glad you were moved by that. It's a thought that's taken me a while to articulate.

    Jennifer: your courage and wisdom are absolutely inspirational. I hope many people have a chance to learn from you. It sounds like you've created a powerful way of seeing the world. Go you.

    Ciara: yes, Gwyn Michael is amazing! You should fin & follow her!

    Shelly: It's not a terrible problem to have, am I right?

    Lynn: Thank you!

    Andrew: of course you are.

  12. I think we all move back and forth from happy to sad at different times, for different reasons. What makes us different is our "default" state - where we return to after the thing that moved us to happy or sad has passed. This is what makes some people "natually happy" or "basically unhappy". It's a wonderful thing to try to help someone change their default state if they're unhappy but sometimes I wonder if it can be done.

  13. Great Post! I loved it. Thanks for sharing. It is right along the line of my last post- just seeing the good in anything whenever you can, even when it's hard to do.
    Although I can't say that I lean either very joyous or to the 'darker' side, it is a gift within my family to simply NOT be bi-polar. I have always felt a little guilty that I was one of the few not afflicted. But it doesn't do any good to worry about what you are given, just best to use it as you can for the understanding and sharing with other human beings.

  14. Nice to meet you, Jericha. I'm a naturally happy and optimistic person, too. I like your analogy of a lighthouse.

    Hi, Arlee :)

  15. A lot of times, I feel like I should do things that might just look as if I'm insane.

    Sometimes I do them anyway. :-D

  16. Goodness gracious! I completely relate to Jericha!! I have also wrestled with my guilt about being happy all the time (most of the time anyway!), and also wrestled with not understanding WHY can't everyone else choose to make lemonade out of lemons (cuz, believe me, I've had my share.) So THANK YOU for this spectacular post. As an earlier commenter said - glad to know I"m not the only one with happy issues! :)

  17. Since I'm about to embark on a couple more days of intense driving and may not be able to access the internet much, I want to say thank you Jericha for a post that was much needed today.

    Thanks to those who commented so far and those whom I'm sure will be commenting over the week-end.

    Be happy!


  18. Enjoyed your post! We actually need more people like you to balance out the darkness. I really like your point about being a lighthouse. You can beam your happiness and if the ones who followed dark chooses to see the light, everyone wins. But if you force someone to "drink" like you said, it actually sometimes does more harm than good. Also like acknowledging both sides. Before I tried to ignore the dark, but that's is fantasy island. Thanks!

  19. LD: I think you're right, it's a hard thing to change, and even if it can be done I'm not sure it should be. It's more that I'd like to be able to give some sense that lightness exists also to those whose natural state is somewhat gloomy.

    Jasmine: You're right on about not trying not to worry about what you've been given and just working with it as best you can. That's important for me to bear in mind as well.

    Carol: Thank you! It's nice to meet you too!

    Misha: If they make sense to you, go for it. As long as others aren't being harmed, why not? Sometimes the hardest and most beautiful thing is just to take the leap.

    Amy: Thank you! Yes, I do think it's hard for those of us who got lucky with the happy neurochemistry to wrap our heads around what it's like not to work that way. Which is why compassion is such an important part of joy - as is remembering that one's own form of open-mindedness isn't always the only form.

    Arlee: Thanks again! This has been such a wonderful experience. I feel so lucky to get to meet all your wonderful readers.

    bucksaver: Thank you. It's good to know I've got something to offer.


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