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The Joy of Whatever This Is
For this week’s installment of ‘Called Out’, Angelique Dyer is taking over to discuss cultivating joy as a Black woman in America
“Count it all joy.”
That’s my mantra.
“Count it all joy” is what I let fall from my lips when I make my first of many cups of coffee for the day, and it’s the same phrase I utter when I pop my two melatonin gummies for a hopeful good night’s sleep.
“Count it all joy” is how I bookend my days, and it’s something I say more often and louder and stronger with each day we’re in *waves hands around* whatever this is.
I’m going to keep it 100 with y’all – finding joy is HARD.
How is one supposed to be joyful when every day we wake up and wonder what fresh hell the virus is serving us, or how many people are on ventilators, or what black woman or man is a hashtag today?
And when you’re like me, someone who once called herself a “cultivator of joy,” not being able to find joy during dark times is like some weird game of constipation. Finding joy came so easily for me. When I felt myself on the brink of an anxiety attack or had a bad day at work, I had a list of things I could visit to refresh and restore whatever joy I let the world steal.
Here’s the short list:
- Cutting a mango
- Listening to my nieces play
- Buying peonies
- Any song by Chaka Khan
Cultivating joy in my days feels like an act of Congress right about now, and I grow weary each day trying to make it from sunrise to sunset without swan diving into some kind of twisted depression. But… for some reason, my gut takes over and screams:
“Hey girl, remember, COUNT IT ALL JOY.”
So, that’s what I do.
I count it all joy.
All the good, and even the bad, gets calculated in my checkbook of joy and delights. And while I’ve had to adjust some of my joyful things because we’re quarantined, I haven’t stopped finding it.
So, how do I do it?
Well, I have a secret.
It’s all rooted in gratitude.
Joy and gratitude work together, like chicken and waffles.
(Good lord, I miss brunch so much.)
Sure, fried chicken on its own is exquisite, and waffles are golden discs of goodness, but together? They work so damn well.
Joy and gratitude on their own are great practices to build into your life, but, my word, when you put them together, and when you take a second to think about what you’re grateful for, you start to see the joy in all things. Because what you’re grateful for brings you joy.
Now, if you thought finding joy was hard during a pandemic, gratitude might be even harder.
It’s hard to speak out loud what you’re grateful for when people are dying and suffering and being killed for jogging or just resting at home. It’s hard to be grateful when you don’t know what tomorrow, or even the next hour, will bring.
And yet it’s so necessary.
Practicing gratitude and cultivating joy is part of my ninja training.
As a black woman with an anxiety disorder living in America, I need all the ninja training I can get to operate in this here world. I need to arm myself with my weapons of mass goodness just to make it out of bed.
So, sure, being grateful and cultivating joy is hard work, but it’s work that’s keeping me alive at this very moment.
Just as I mutter my mantra, I also never go to bed without writing in my gratitude journal. Wellness expert and creator Hey Fran Hey taught me the glory that is a gratitude journal years ago, and it’s been one of the many things that has gotten me through my late 20s and into my 30s. I have about seven notebooks filled with all the things that I’m grateful for each day. The list can range from five things to 25 things, and I can guarantee that lemon pepper wings and wine are written at least once every three pages in a notebook.
Forcing myself to sit down and think about my day, despite how joyful or dreadful it was, and document what I am grateful for is an exercise that brings me joy. It makes me go about my day intentionally finding things that stir up gratitude in my body. I will even admit that I’ve been at several happy hours drinking champagne and telling the bartender that I will write their name down in my gratitude journal, because they served me a delightful glass of champagne, and it brought me joy.
It’s what I do.
Even on the worst of the worst days, the first thing I will find myself writing is that I am grateful I survived the day – sometimes it really is just that simple.
Waking up and having another day.
Cutting a mango.
During this pandemic, I’ve found myself flipping through the pages of my gratitude journals and revisiting joyful memories, like when I drank Veuve Clicquot on the balcony of a friend’s house during Mardi Gras, or back to the day I found out that Living Single was finally on Hulu.
I revisit my old entries to remind myself of the joyful moments my life has gifted me and to remind myself that, even in the absence of joy right now, it still exists.
Joy exists in the pages of my Moleskine notebooks.
Joy exists in a vase of fresh peonies.
Joy exists where gratitude lives.
And no pandemic or unrest on the streets will change the gratitude and joy joining the ranks of all the things that make me feel alive.
Because, joy… joy is my act of resistance.
Angelique Dyer, a lady who brunches from New Orleans East, is an award-winning creative producer, fiction writer, and public relations and brand strategist working in higher-education. The self-proclaimed High Priestess of Brunch, she writes about brunch for Very Local New Orleans (https://nola.verylocal.com/author/angeliequedyer/). She has been a board member of the BeyHive since 1998, is constantly practicing her NPR voice, and can be found taking over for the ’99 and the 2000.
Find her on social media at @angieworldorder on Twitter and Instagram.