On Joy…

The dot, dot, dot after the title is intentional. I have been writing a bit more in recent months due to a lighter course load this semester, and the times when I allow my fingers to move across the keyboard, I feel home. Running is the only other solo activity that creates this depth of belonging to the earth and feeling at home in my bones.

Coincidentally, a friend sent me a website with the names of some online and print magazines that are accepting submissions. We’ll see what comes of any of that down the road. What’s more relevant is that I have been particularly drawn to a magazine asking for pieces about “joy,” writing that does not evolve out of hardships or struggles. However, I am stumped.

Before you psychoanalyze me to death, hear me out.

One thing I think I do well is finding joy in pain or life experiences that are uncomfortable or even downright challenging. Seeking out the orange koi fish in the murky pond (an image I have used in an old blog of mine) is usually a specialty of mine, at least eventually.

But the thought of writing about a joyous moment is so intriguing because it seems more difficult to write about happiness. What do we have to make meaning out of when it’s a happy moment? What great truths lie in the times we are laughing so hard we can’t catch our breath or until juice is coming out of our nose? How is the 2,000th night of lovey-dovey cuddling with your young child or your husband interesting to anyone?

I think I am finding the answer as I write this. The answers are in fact in the questions themselves, are they not?

As I write this, it seems painfully obvious that pain is not the only universal experience, even though misery loves company and writers are almost required to have a dark, twisted underside or inner cave. The darkness is often what hones the craft, is it not? We carve our beautiful flutes with a knife, to very crudely paraphrase Kahlil Gibran.

Once those flutes are carved, though, do they not create joyous melodies? What about the yellow paint color of an old friend’s sitting room? And the family photos she keeps on the walls of friends old and new? What about the good-night promises we whisper to our children in the dark? Or the moment your husband makes that face? The one where his eyes sparkle like Kris Kringle’s and his eyebrows are perfect punctuation marks.

Joy. I can see your beauty and how neglected you must feel. (More to come on this one.)

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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