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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Let’s get right to the point. After doing nothing but bitch and complain lately, I was thinking I’d focus on the word joy today. But it felt like too much. Joy should be this bursting feeling. Like you can’t contain your happiness. I didn’t feel particularly bursting today.

So I considered scaling it down to contentment. But that is too baseline. That’s the feeling you get from cleaning out the pantry and standing back and looking at all the pretty containers. A worthy feeling, don’t get me wrong, but not quite up to explaining how I felt today.

I can’t even tell you at this point how many words went through my head and my thesaurus. Glee. Jubilant. Delight. Glad. Pleasing. Satisfaction. Buoyant. None of it was right. The English language seems to lack a word halfway between contentment and joy, so in a game of scales, I had to tip toward joy.


Why on earth would I do that, when I could save that word for a truly joyful day, like when something really good and memorable happened?

I hate to waste a word like joy on a random Wednesday in January. But it was in my head and now it’s on my page. Can’t take it back now.

What, then, was so joyful about today?

Part of the reason for focusing on the word joy today is because nothing grandly joyful happened, not in the way we usually think of joy, but in a way that made it more relevant. Joy is often in small things, unnoticed things. I know this. I don’t always appreciate this. Today, I did.

It came in little sparkles (yes, I thought of using that word, too) and kind of made me feel bi-polar, to be honest. I’ve been leaning a tad toward the negative side lately (I’m sure nobody noticed, it’s not like I bitched about Spotify and customer service for multiple days in a row.)

So when I woke up feeling cheerful this morning (also a contender) it felt a little out of place. This probably sounds awful but I actually raised an eyebrow and wondered why.

I still mostly rushed through my morning routine. Work still avalanched down, accompanied by the usual episodes of oops-something-went-wrong. It’s not like I can put a bookmark in the day and look back and say, “Ah, there’s when things changed!”

There is no telling how a day or a brain will go. But when it leans toward joy you really have to roll with it.

I’d like to take credit for changing the narrative or shifting my mindset or radically accepting or some other genius thing, but mostly my brain does what it wants.

It’s sort of like the thing with the cookies. Yes, I’m talking about that again, because what else am I going to say on a day that is mostly like every other day?

Hear me out, though.

Sometimes I really want the cookies, like addiction level I need the cookies. No matter what I do or how many tricks I play on myself (Call a friend! Take a bubble bath! Reward yourself with a new dress!) it doesn’t change that fact.

But then one day a switch flips in my brain and the cookies are dead to me. Don’t care, don’t want them, moving on.

Call it the ebb and flow. Just another cycle of life. And this too shall pass.

Whatever you want to say about it.

Today was switch flip to a more positive mental state.

The thing is, it’s really hard to combat the negative stuff. You have to work at it, or you just sink. It’s exhausting.

When it comes to feeling joyful though, the danger is that you just want to breathe a sigh of relief and stop working so hard, and that’s when you get complacent and don’t bother to experience it fully.

Which is why I kept coming back to that word, even though I’m not spending it on a day full of kittens and rainbows (you really thought I was going to say cookies again, didn’t you?)

I wanted to take advantage of the feeling today and appreciate its existence.

I’d like to tell you what I felt joyful about, but it wasn’t really about anything. It was just there.

It was there when a client who I sent out a particular marketing email for ended up closing four new jobs within an hour of that email going out. I mean, you have to feel a little bit giddy about that.

It was there when I replayed last night’s cooking class in my memory. A friend gifted it to me for Christmas. It was a vegan cooking class, which, if you’ve been keeping up, you know does not precisely harmonize with my love of bacon.

And to be (un)fair, I ignored the instructions to buy vegan cheese and lard-free refried beans.

But the class was super fun and the food was yummy, so I had a pretty decent grin on my face thinking about eating the leftovers today. And also appreciating the friend who gave me the gift.

Then, because the universe is… say it with me… synchronous, I got an email from another friend, and she mentioned how it would be fun to do a virtual cooking day together.

Pull out the joy map and put a pin in “reconnected with high school friend who you haven’t seen since 1987 who suddenly wants to do a virtual cooking day with you.”

Other burst of joy: I got a text from a food truck I’ve been following since we discovered them this past summer at a music festival. It said that they would be in town today during dinnertime.

Guess what went on the menu?

The truck is called Chivanada and they make Colombian food by way of plantains, yucca and empanadas. We got all the empanadas. Chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, cheese, lentil, vegetable. Then we got two kinds of plantains and yucca fries.

It was just as good as I remembered it, and there are leftovers for tomorrow. I mean, you really never get enough empanadas to eat for a meal. You get them to eat for two or three.

Then I found out that my brother, who is afraid of getting caught in New York in a snowstorm predicted for this weekend, decided to move his visit up a day, and will be here Friday instead of Saturday night.

On the one hand, he is going to have to deal with the fact that I am not going to have time to dust his room. On the other, I get to see him a day earlier. I know it’s only one day but it was a little bit of “whee!” in my day.

(Also a little bit of “gah!!” but who’s going to say that out loud? I mean, so much for planning all the meals and getting the shopping done and spending Saturday cleaning. I suppose – deep sigh – we will just have to drink an extra cocktail and figure out how to cope.)

So really, today went about as most days. It was harried and hectic, full of technology fails and mind-numbing voicemails. But I was fortunate enough to experience – and more importantly notice – those little starbursts of joy.

And now I am going to joyfully stop writing this, pile up my three pillows, get under my four blankets, and sleep until tomorrow’s word.

Photo: today’s trip to the Chivanada truck