Love in the Time of Tyranny: Joy

Be honest: what is more terrifying? The thought that, in the end, all of it blows up, or, the thought that it all works out?

If you are in a group of people you don’t know, you will say:

“Obviously, the thought that it all blows up in the end.”

If you are in a group of people you call friends, but really aren’t your friends, you will laugh sarcastically and say:

“That it all works out! Just kidding (laugh), that it all blows up, duh.”

If you are alone in your bed and it is 3:05 in the morning, you can’t sleep, and it is so quiet, so suffocatingly silent and dark, you will say, in your head, or just to yourself, just a wisp on your chapped lips:

“That it all works out.”

We do not live in a world that is certain and sure but we try to make it so.
We do not live in a culture that gives joy, so we smoke and sniff and fight and drink it “so.” We do not live lives of easy delight and excitement, so we pretend we don’t need it.

Do you know the definition of delight? I’ll give you the one that I learned in a marketing class in college:

Delight is not getting what you want or what you expected. Delight is when you pick up a nice product, and then it gives you the thing you did not expect but it solves a need, an emotional need, that was lurking underneath the surface.

Getting a new car with all the listed products and features is great. But, delight is when you get into that new car and there is a unexpected bottle of champagne with a bow tied around its neck waiting there for you to celebrate you taking it home.

Delight. Oh, delight, did you see the key it? It’s unexpected.

So, why do we not get joy? We already don’t expect it, so then when it happens, shouldn’t we just be delighted?

Well, if you have prepared yourself to not want it, if you have forced yourself into a state of control and certainty, when it comes along, instead of grasping that bottle of champagne and happily taking it home, you turn to the salesman who is expecting you to be delighted and say:

“I don’t drink.”

Even if you do. Even if you want to. Even if you could still take that bottle and give it to a friend or a family member or a coworker, and give them delight! Even if [fill in the blank].

We would rather be stuck with the dreck that we have than to navigate uncertain, unknowable, and unexpected terrain. We would rather stay at home, coddled up, and stick to routines because that is familiar than to embrace risk and change and possibility.

We would rather be miserable than risk joy.

Why? Because, once you have glimpsed real joy, have tasted even a minor bit, you cannot go back to the dark and stay. You can try – in fact, you will try! You will attempt to go backwards, you will lock the doors, shut off the lights, get underneath the covers, and shiver as long as you can bear it.

But, now that you know, you cannot un-know. Yes, it could be taken away from you if you embrace it and you must give up all your armors and defenses to have it (the knowing, the being right, the control, the certainty, the mitigation of risk, the prediction of the future, the proving), but this is the true tyranny of joy: it is an absolute game-changer. Just the briefest sampling of its tiny delights will plague you until the end of yours days.

Stop “foreboding joy,” as Brené Brown would say, and just, y’know, embrace it.

No tyrant expects a hug; do so, it may delight that tyrant.

It will delight you.

4 thoughts on “Love in the Time of Tyranny: Joy

  1. I just read your post about being enough and wondered if you were familiar with Brené Brown then came here, and voilà! I’m (very slowly and deliberately) reading The Gifts of Imperfection and having lots of feels and thoughts about it.


    1. Oh, so many feels! So many thoughts! Yea, it’s … a necessary read + re-read. It’s like that textbook you got in college and thought you’d never pick up again, except you do because it’s so on point 🙂


      1. Right now, it’s like the book my therapist recommended so I started reading and am consistently simultaneously fascinated and terrified by how strongly it resonants. 🙂


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