A physical sensation of joy

“You’re kind of funny,” Matt said to me the other night, “And hardly anybody knows that about you.”  I looked down the stairs to see that he was grinning up at me, laughing at some crack I’d just made.  I don’t even remember what it was.  But the moment made me think of how frequently I write here of the tough stuff, the bleakness I can’t shake, the sensitivity that defines my experience in the world, the tears that come up every single day.  A reader could easily think I’m a heavy, gloomy person. I’ve received more than one inquiry along these lines, from well-intentioned people sincerely concerned about my state of mind.

So I was grateful to read Pam’s once-again-beautiful words, this time on this very subject.  She quotes from Dani Shapiro’s Devotion (a book you all know I worship), a passage where Dani quotes Sylvia Boorstein: “I think of it as the edge of melancholy,” Sylvia said, “and it’s where I live – but at the same time, I am easily cheered.”  Pam goes on to share moments of her radiantly beautiful ordinary life that cheer her immensely.

I was moved to do the same, upon reading her words.  There is plenty that makes me smile and grin and laugh, every single day.  Yes, my days contain plenty of murk and mess, their share of tears and heartbreak.  I’ve said it before: It’s all connected, the way I observe the world in sometimes-excruciating detail, the untrammelled rushes of joy I can feel at the most unexpected times, the heart-wrenching pain my life delivers at others.  This is all a part of being an exceptionally porous person.  Is it any wonder that I’ve had to develop coping mechanisms, be they an aversion to true vulnerability or a tendency towards distraction, in order to mitigate the power of constantly living in such an exposed way?  I’m easily overwhelmed by the grandeur and terror of this life, and I have over 36 years built up a variety of ways of managing the pain that that inundation can bring with it.  It’s a package deal, the wound and the wonder.  I don’t know how to have one without the other.  Even the most swollen, shiny rapture is striated with sadness.

Inspired by Pam, here are a few things that make me feel joy so strong it is a physical sensation.  I’m not sure I dwell enough on those in this blog, on the untrammelled joy, the swollen, shiny rapture, the radiance.

Parrot tulips, pale pink and green.
Bricks, outside our front porch, colored in chalk in the rain by Grace and Whit.
Two eight year old girls climbing onto the roof of a play structure at the park on an early spring day.
Whit, reading quietly in bed (after he protested my effort to put him to bed at 6:52, I allowed 15 minutes of solo reading).
Sunrise from the air over New York, 6:30am, last week.

11 thoughts on “A physical sensation of joy”

  1. Your blog may not be your outlet for your humor, that is true. But in your personal interactions it is indeed plentiful–rest assured! From a two-word email (likely abbreviated!) to side splitting guffaws. I’m so glad you have the space here to mine melancholy (as it were); perhaps it both preserves and stokes your red-headed humor! Xo

  2. I so relate. I always say that one of my faults is that I’m terminally serious, but my friends tell me that I’m actually very funny sometimes, which is shocking to me.

    We are so very many things.

  3. yes, ‘the wound and the wonder”…and the deep physical sensation of both. i too feel everything so intensely always and often simultaneously. trying also to embrace and/both re: being serious/melancholy and funny/joyful.

  4. Some simple advice–whenever you see a puppy on the street, stop and pet it. It’s impossible not to be happy when you’re petting a cute little bundle of 100% love.

  5. There are times when I wonder if my blog is too full of negativity and how that does not truly reflect the person I am either. Things that make me happy, fresh cut flowers on my kitchen table, a sense of accomplishment (even if it’s the laundry), moving towards something.

  6. Aw. Gracias Chica!

    This was so lovely. And you are definitely funny. It comes through your gorgeous writing. Such beautiful children you have!


  7. Every day I find we have more in common. In the early years I kept getting comments on my blog saying, “Why don’t you write about something else besides death and cancer?” Well, the truth is that those are the topics I am good at writing about. Twitter shows my funny side, but for people like us who have dichotomous personalities it can often be the case people don’t know all of the parts of our personality. Doesn’t that make it more interesting? 🙂

  8. I live in that place of sensitivity too, but there is much richness there and it holds unique gifts, doesn’t it?

    Fantastic photos, those colored bricks make me smile from ear to ear!

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