I’m the last person to look to for advice when it comes to accentuating the positive. I have a tendency to get mired in the muck of the mundane, stuck in the shit, bogged down in the banal…you get the idea.
At the dawning of these times of plague, my advice was to do whatever the f**k you need to do to get through this. Of course that was when we were all cycling wildly from OMG we’re all gonna die to OK, I can stay home for a few weeks.
Now here we are, nearly 10 months later and it’s more Christ on a cracker this is never going to end, is it? For many of us, it’s winter, and not the end of winter like the first lockdown where green shoots were budding and the light was changing and hope sprung eternal. Nope. Now we’re smack dab in January. We’re not even at the Wednesday hump day of winter. It’s not stopping by the woods on a snowy evening type, pretty Christmas card shit. It’s never-ending days of heavy gray where the light cycles from slightly less dark to night and then back again.
Forget hygge. There aren’t enough scented candles and fur throws and cozy family time to get you through this.
We’re all exhausted. We’re all Covid-fatigued. In my house, we are increasingly sick of the sight of one another. Petty arguments are breaking out over who didn’t clean the chopping board after they cut the tomato.
We need reinforcements. Booze, chocolate, crappy television, the box set of Bridgerton books, whatever your poison. Break open the emergency glass and take what you need.
And even more important? Lower your joy expectations.
When the things which normally bring us happiness are taken away–holidays and family get togethers, parties and occasions and friends–it’s normal that we’d long for something substantial.
Something meaty and juicy.
We don’t just crave joy, but enough joy to make a meal of, to sustain us over the long term. Something bright and shiny and delicious and drenched in chocolate sauce. Or mayonnaise.
I’m not judging.
We’re all trying carb-load joy in a time when we’re lucky if we get a spoonful.
Folks, I’ll be honest. In my house we’re drooling over travel websites and getting excited about ordering new pillows. I’m contemplating bread recipes like I would college courses. Some of you are pulling out your hair trying to be tinker, tailor, teacher, mom to your kids. Beating ourselves up looking for super-sized joy is not only not necessary, all it’s going to do is add another fifteen items to your already impossible to-do list.
And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not to-do-ing, anymore.
We need small. We need doable.
We need all the bite-size joy we can get right now. Forget meal-size and think amuse bouche.
A soupçon, a spoonful, a dollop of joy.
Crossed something minor off your to-do list?
Cut your bangs and they don’t look like Lego hair?
YouTubed how to multiply fractions and then explained it to your kid without yelling?
The sun is shining?
You got everyone in the same place for a meal?
No one threw anything across the room in frustration today?
Enjoy that bite-size joy, sister. You earned it.
I’m betting a lot of us are struggling to find enough joy to refill those joy buckets kindergarten teachers are fond. Oh, sure, there are always those who will, but those are also the people that find the silver lining in a thunderstorm cloud. They are weird and I don’t trust them completely.*
Oh I know. It’s great that we are getting to spend extra, quality time with our families. It’s great we’re playing more board games and baking more bread. It’s great we have a deeper and greater appreciation for the people around us who make the world work.
All of that can be true while also thinking this sucks. This is hard. This is boring and relentless and I miss things and if I have to play another game of Scrabble or cook another meal, I might explode.
It’s ok to opt out of the silver-lining playbook for a bit.
Take your bite-size joys when and where you find them. Savor them the way you savor that chocolate you hide and eat in secret after everyone goes to bed.
And stop beating yourself up about it.
*You’re not really weird.