I was walking through Lord and Taylor a few weeks ago, when out of the corner of my eye I caught something that stopped me in my tracks, an experience most often saved for shoes with a heel above four inches. But instead, what I saw was a simple black clutch, these words scribbled across it in gold ink:
Today I Choose Joy
The phrase isn’t new, incredible or profound. The clutch itself was none of these things either. Simple would be its most accurate description.
After a moment, I started to wonder why it was that I stopped so suddenly. And more, I wondered why a statement so familiar had somehow in that moment meant something new.
There are times in our lives so filled with an abundance of joy that it pours from our heart and mind into every thought, every moment.
A smile fixes itself across your face, a flutter remains in your belly, flapping harder at shorter and shorter intervals as if to remind you more frequently of the joy you are feeling.
There is so much joy that you simply do not have space enough within yourself for it, and so it spills. It spills out through your words and into your actions. You spread it like the flu. No one around you is safe from catching it. If we are lucky, they too will spread it on further.
But at other times, times equally as real, that joy simply will not come. It feels so far away, like your desperately reaching fingers, aching from their efforts simply cannot catch enough of an edge to grasp hold and make it stay.
It is in these times that, so often, we are told to choose joy. As if the problem of sadness is caused so simply by an unwillingness or refusal to stroll through the aisles of emotions and fill our basket with enough joy to last the week, or at least until the next scheduled visit to the market.
But what if choosing joy isn’t about choosing to force it into your basket?
What if choosing joy in these lowest of lows is about the validation not to?
What if this acknowledgement meant giving permission to not choose joy in the moments when it just feels too hard?
When I saw the clutch I thought of myself, a few weeks into marriage, coming off a weekend so abundantly filled with love I still struggle to find words to describe it. Overjoyed with each glimpse of my future, our future.
I thought of my mother, weeks into what feels like a never-ending cycle of chemotherapy, which will end only in time for radiation to begin.
I thought of the joy I have spilling out and over. My desire so often to tell her to slap a smile on her face and just feel glad.
Sometimes you just have to decide to feel happy.
I so often wanted to say.
But instead, I turned from where I stood, picked it up, paid, and took the clutch home with me.
Two days later I placed it into her lap.
Joy is a decision for you right now, I tried to tell her. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to decide whether or not to choose it today.
I hoped my joy would spill out onto her, but I also knew that if it didn’t, it is no fault of her own or even mine.
Sometimes choosing joy is just too hard. And so we sat together.
And weeks later, with chemotherapy ended and radiation a month a way, her basket seems full of joy now. When it runs out I won’t pressure her to fill it again, until she is ready to choose it. Because I know that sometimes in that aisle of emotions, it is easier to reach sadness and frustration, fatigue and hopelessness.
Sometimes their shelves are closer.
But I will continue to choose joy for her, because I can. And someday soon her own joy will again spill out and over. And a time will come when she will validate my own struggle to choose this same joy. And the cycle continues and we grow closer still.
Today, I choose joy.
And if you cannot, I am here with a little extra to spare.