joy

Oh, Joy.

mumford and sons

About a month ago, I found myself smack dab in the center of Joy. I didn’t navigate my way there. I just stumbled upon it, like a secret garden or a hidden hot spring that nobody can quite tell you how to get to. It happened right here, at a Mumford & Sons concert.

It sort of snuck up on me. It tapped me on the shoulder a few times, but I ignored it - chalking it up to a song or the energy of the room that night. It was, after all, a great concert. But at the end of the last song, I stepped back, away from the crowd, and I just took a breath. It was in that moment of space that I gave myself that I recognized where I was. Smack dab in the middle of Joy.

It was bound to happen. I had been denying myself Joy for so long….pretending like it didn’t even exist. Maybe I just didn’t recognize it because it had been gone for so long. So each time I saw it, I looked away, seeking it in some other format. Or maybe not at all.

Depriving ourselves of joy is not new. We do it for many reasons. I think mine was a sort of self-flagulation, as if I didn’t deserve a relationship with Joy….as if I wasn’t meant to live side by side in the presence of something so simple and true to our well being. I wish I had a better explanation of why I have left Joy behind in a dustcloud - shame, guilt and fear all vying for shotgun in my life, but I don’t. It’s silly and ridiculous and I wish I didn’t feel this way. But the fact is that I do. Or at least I did.

After I snuck away from the mosh pit of humans that night, I squared myself up center to the stage - iPhone in hand to take a shot. I took a deep breath in and smiled, just lingering in the moment a little. That’s when I realized Joy was back. And there we were… face-to-face, hand-in-hand with all the other couples in the back of the room. We cozied up and renewed our long lost commitment to one another, dancing under the confetti like we had just renewed our holy vows.

And if you, too, are seeking Joy in your life, I think you can find it tucked away at the crossroads of love and gratitude. Just make sure you don’t bypass it as you take a direct route on the superhighway to where you think it should be. It’s not clearly marked on that map someone tricked you into believing. There are no shortcuts. No direct routes. No signs pointing to a singular destination. It’s tricky to find and even harder to recognize. But once you arrive, you’ll know it.

The pursuit of joy.

play

Do you remember what it was like to play or be silly? When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt? Do you remember the feeling of reckless abandon…driving with your head out the window or skipping along a path or falling hopelessly in love with someone?

Somewhere along the way, somehow, I feel like we have collectively lost our sense of joy.

Maybe it’s the heaviness of the news right now. Or maybe it’s adulthood pulling at you to responsibly face everything…the laundry, the bills, the carpooling, the work, the shopping, the taxes. Or maybe we have been spending so much time in our heads, we have forgotten how to connect with how we feel in our bodies.

After so many years of being corrected, punished, and told how to act right, the world gives us no time for pleasure (no wonder drug use, prescription medicine and alcoholism are at an all time high.) We grow up being told to stand in line, take your turn, smile petty for the photo. We are told to suffer through it all or suffer the consequences. We are put into tiny boxes, expectations swirling around us like vultures ready to feast on the dying carcass of joy trailing behind us. After all, you can’t pay the bills having fun.

Or can you?

Could you – just for a moment – decide that life (and even work) was meant to be fun? Could you assume that there is joy within it all? Wouldn’t success come more readily while we are finding things we enjoy?

Pleasure, or joy, can come in many ways…going for a nourishing walk through the woods, finding an amazing concert of your favorite band, road tripping to a fun, new town with your favorite friends, or even in your daily work.

When I am photographing a family, or food, or whatever I am doing, I feel joy. But I can get caught up in the seriousness of it all with things like “Am I good enough at my job?” or “When are they going to pay me for this?” can get in the way of WHY I am doing this. It puts joy in a choke hold and suffocates it. If those questions creep in, I always see it in my work.

Finding the fun in the everyday isn’t only a recommendation anymore, it’s a requirement - like breath and water. We need joy, but it seems like we have lost it inside of adulting. When the heaviness creeps in and gets in the way of all that we are doing, it zaps energy and steals the joy we have. When I approach life with the “What am I gonna get out of this” mentality or “what is the (so-called) cost of this,” joy always takes a back seat. It’s an immediate buzz kill. If I worried about the price of the tickets to the concert we went to this week, I would never have been able to lean into the experience. I would never have felt that deep joy.

Much like anything, joy takes practice. It’s a shedding of layers of guilt and years of unraveling what messages we got around being happy - if we deserve it, if we are worthy enough for it’s company. But like everything, you have to keep trying.

But your happiness - your pursuit of of joy - has ripple effects. Your joy affects everyone you come in touch with and everyone around you. And, my friend, that little practice has the power to change the our whole world.

So buy that ticket. Invite those friends over. Pursue that new career. Jump off the diving board into the deep end and swim around in that joy. You’ll be so happy you did.

The Intersection of Joy and Work.

dandy boutique
venita

I had a great time shooting this series for Dandy Boutique here in Charleston recently. The photos are so happy, bright and joyful. And that Venita sure can have a good time on a shoot. She is like a pre-packaged party for 1!

This shoot was so fun and light that it got me thinking a lot about the intersection of joy and work. This is not something people are lucky to have. Some people have very serious jobs (hello and thank you, doctors of the world) that require some often sensitive and precarious interactions. So how do you create joy wherever you are in life, despite what is happening all around you?

I think that answer is as varied as the jobs in the world. For, me it boils down to a few essential things. I know gratitude helps me a lot. And knowing I am only a small part of a bigger plan in this universe also can get me through the harder and more serious times like when I am focused on the drudgery of taxes and bills and broken computers. But I believe it's different for all of us. Sometimes a good cup of coffee might actually change your whole day.

I don't think joy is a permanent thing - every day has good points and not-so-good points. But knowing that I am doing something I love every day certainly helps me enjoy the better part of my life and focus on the parts that aren't so bad after all.

So I believe the joy is there. Sometimes it hides behind the little things. But I do believe it's always there, just waiting to come out and play.