I smile a lot. Even as a baby there are pictures of me giggling all over myself. To this day, I still giggle. Heck there are days when I am down right giddy.
Over the past two years I have had a lot of adversity in my life (Katrina, bankruptcy, chronic unemployment, health issues. . .) yet, I still smile. For some odd reason this seems to confuse/bother people. “How can you always be so happy?” asked a co-worker. “Because I woke up this morning” is usually my response. This seems to infuriate my co-worker. He went on to say, “There are homeless people who just woke up this morning. There has to be more to it!” He was actually angry that I could find joy in just being alive. This concerned me for a couple of reasons, 1) why would this person take such a vested interest in my emotions and 2) what the heck is wrong with being joyous.
That day after speaking with my co-worker I realized that he wasn’t the first person to question me about my joy. Months prior to my conversation with him another co-worker and I were working on a project and I just laughed through the whole thing. Understand I work in law enforcement. Most of the stuff is just too ridiculous not to laugh. That person stopped during our session to ask me if I always laughed at everything. I thought about it for a second and said, “Yep. Beats crying all of the time.”
These incidents combined caused me to pause and think about why I am so joyous. Again, it’s been a rough few years for me. But the bottom line is: life is too short to be angry, bitter and whining all of the time.
My analytical nature caused me to examine my joy. The first thing I did was ask someone close to me if I come across as being an idiot. Although I laugh and smile often it is rare for me to just break out in hysterical, comic laughter (falling over, slapping my knee, rolling on the ground). I needed to know if I appear to be a buffoon. After reminding me that I’m two chuckles away from a straight-jacket, my dearest friend (she really is) said, “No. Heck, do they expect you to run through the office crying and trying to slit your wrist at your desk. What type of manic depressive nuts do you work with?” We both laughed hysterically, realizing how sad it is that someone would be put off by another’s joy.
Second, I got another opinion. I asked a co-worker with whom I have had many conversations. He said that my joy may come across as being “disingenuous” since it’s hard to believe anyone can be that joyous all of the time.
“Wow”, I thought. How distressing is it that joy makes people sad and suspicious. I guess all of those professional coaches and religious zealots were wrong in stating that if you smile it would be infectious and others would smile too.
My last observation and most important discovery was that the only people who were telling me I was “too happy” were black men. As I sat and thought through the years I realized these two incidents in my office were not the first time my joy had been challenged. I realized that as far back as elementary school my joy was being questioned. “You too nice” is one phrase I recall from the playground voices of yesteryear. But the majority of the challenges were from the boys . . . now men. This was perplexing and funny to me. This little discovery really made me want to know why black men are so put off by joy. I could blame it on socio-economic environments that do not allow young black men to express emotion. I could say that our society is so hard on black boys that they can’t seem to manifest the joy we are taught in church. I could beat my head against a wall and try to delve into the psyche of machismo instilled in inner city children. What I chose to do is master the art of joy in hopes that one day it will spread like a virus and infect everyone I meet. Also, that young black boys will realize black women are capable of joy and are nice, caring beings who love them. Along with grown black men realizing that they are so worthy of being loved and being in an environment with a woman who genuinely wants to share space, time and exhibit that joy with them.
Here are some things I’ve realized:
· My joy is my business. I can exhibit it without fear of taxation or apprehension.
· My joy is my way of giving back. When your net financial worth is in the minus, it’s good to find other ways to contribute to society.
· My joy is a gift from God and not to display it as broad and high as a flag is an insult to the Creator.
· My joy gives me a reason to get out of the bed, go to a job where I’m over worked, underpaid, underappreciated and do my job effectively.
· My joy reminds me that I made it another day.
· My joy makes me feel special in an environment that tries to convince me I have no worth.
Reasons I plan to continue being joyous/giddy/giggly:
· I turned 42 this year. My mom died when she was 41 years old from complications brought on by Lupus. For every smile she gave to encourage me, my sister and brother (through excruciating pain) I will match. For all the smiles she can no longer give, I will represent on her behalf.
· I lost my job, my house and a good deal of my hair. But, God allowed me to keep my mind, peace and the joy.
· For those who can’t figure out how to get their joy. I’m holding all of the spare smiles until they come up to speed.
· Someone, somewhere, someday will be having a really hard time. I honestly believe that from the time I say “hi” and pass that person, for that brief moment in time, the essence of my joy will permeate that time and space and engulf that person; rendering them hopelessly joyous and will assist them in finding resolve to their issue. – That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
· My hair is growing back. Most of it is silver, but it’s back!
· Because, if I wake up, I should.
How I plan to handle people who can’t handle my joy:
· It is not my job, duty nor desire to fix broken people. All I can do for those who are put off by my joy is not to share it with them. When they walk into a room I’ll restrain myself until they leave. That coupled with prayers in hopes they will find a way to embrace being happy.
Regarding black men not liking my joy:
I know for certain that every black man on this planet is not drawn to drama. There are some out there who love my smile (and have told me). There are black men who have prayed to God to be delivered from those women suffering from ABWS (Angry Black Woman Syndrome). Those women, who call them names, break the windows out of their cars, cause confusion between them and their family and friends. Unfortunately it normally takes years of being tied up in the court system, fighting abuse allegations, child support issues, and other maddening situations for these men to truly appreciate my joy.
With all of this said it is imperative that we all master the art of joy and being joyous. Stress can kill quicker than a bullet and causes so much more collateral damage.
If you are a parent and your children never see you smile they are learning from you. We have so many angry children caught up in the judicial system and one thing that seems to be synonymous with all of them is a total and utter lack of joy. They do not see it at home or in the programs they watch; therefore they cannot express it.
It is not my responsibility to skip across the land dousing people with pixy dust, but my joy is mine. If I chose to display it excessively, that is my business. You can be receptive or just walk away confused. Or you too can design your life toward being a Joy Master.
Here are some things to think about if you can’t find your joy –
· Was yesterday the worst day of your life? Smile, it’s over.
· Did you have a horrible childhood? Smile, it’s over.
· Did someone try to rob you of your personal possessions/peace of mind/innocence? Smile if you made it through any of that with your life and are still in your right mind. Then get those people out of your life if they are still around you. Then get some therapy!
· Do you hate your job? Smile as you update your resume, post it on as many job boards as you can find, start networking and embrace your new found joy as you anticipate a glorious change.
· Are you sick of your spouse? Smile. You could be alone and collecting cats.
· Are you sick of being single? Smile. You could be living with a jackass who is incapable of picking clothes up off of the floor, flushing a toilet, and is unable to digest dairy products. And she may snore too!
· Are you tired of being fat? Smile as you walk around the track visualizing a new you. Not to mention the fact that people are looking at you and talking. You should feel like a rock star because only rock stars have strangers all up in their business.
· Someone told you you are ugly/fat/stupid/unworthy? Smile for that person because people who talk about you normally have a lot of inner turmoil. Also, smile harder knowing that there is something about you so unique people feel a need to point it out to you. If it doesn’t bother you then it’s their issue.
· Tired of being broke? Smile, especially if you have “enough”. You live indoors, have at least two outfits, eat every night and can bathe daily. Someone doesn’t have that much and would change places with you in a heartbeat.
· Are you ill and just can’t seem to push a smile through the pain? Find a smile surrogate. Don’t try to get that person to fix your problem. But ask them if the could spare a smile or just if they wouldn’t mind smiling harder on your behave.
· Are you a little Mary/Matthew Sunshine with joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart? Offer some to someone who doesn’t seem to know it exist and accept their response. NO, do not let them rob you of yours. But once you release some of your joy to them allow them to receive it in the manner that best suits them. And as most happy people know, there are those folks out there who are all too happy to “wipe the smile off” of our faces. Those who are meant to receive joy for the betterment of their lives will.
In conclusion, remember these words from an unknown author.
Dance like no one is watching, love like you’ve never been hurt and keep smiling.