I Don’t Know How To Do Joy

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by middleagebutch

{who happens to be the superawesomest butchiest butch blogger in the history of flannel}
(in my humble opinion 😉 )

This is the first guest post in the Holiday BS series.  Click here for more info.

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I should probably preface this post by saying that I am joy challenged.

I’m not the kind of person who is usually referred to as joyful or happy or merry, bubbly, buoyant or cheery.  Cheeky, maybe, but that’s when I’m in an especially good mood.  Perky?  Yeah, no.

I like me some angry Etheridge

I like me some angry Etheridge

I am quiet and stolid, surly and grumpy.  I am a flannel-wearing butch lesbian stereotype come to life with a pair of Dr. Marten’s boots on my feet and Melissa Etheridge blaring from my car radio.  Angry Etheridge, by the way.  The vintage stuff from when lesbians were expected to be angry.  Somebody bring me some water, dammit.

So, joy, not exactly in my wheelhouse.

When I first read Mrs. Fever’s Frompt, this memory popped into my head:  I am in eighth grade, and it’s my first year playing on the school’s softball team.  (Think dykes in spikes, the junior version.)  The coaches are deciding who will pitch the home opener, and I’m on the mound throwing strike after strike.  I’ve got my ball cap pulled down low over my eyes and my game face on.  I can see the big grins on their faces as the possibility of a winning season creeps into their collective consciousness.

“It’s ok to smile,” the head coach says as he walks to the mound and names me starting pitcher.

Olivia Newton-John in those tight black pants always brings this butch joy.

Olivia Newton-John in those tight black pants always brings this butch joy.

But it’s not.  Not for me at least.  Even as a teen, an outward expression of happiness was unsafe territory, shaky ground.  It’s the “Shake Shack” at the end of Grease, but without Olivia Newton-John in those tight, tight black pants.  Damn.

Dr. Brené Brown calls joy “the most terrifying, difficult emotion.”  You can hear what she has to say about joy in this clip from Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday.”  Basically, Brown says life is like a giant ice cream cone, and we’re all waiting for our scoop of butter pecan to fall to the ground.  So, yeah, it’s scary to feel happy when we’re waiting for that happiness to be extinguished.

These guys know how to show joy.

These guys know how to show joy.

Flash forward to 2008 and another sports memory.  The Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series.  It’s been 28 years since the Fightin’s have been world champions.  We are all sitting around the television as Brad “Lights Out” Lidge strikes out the Rays’ Eric Hinske.  W (my wife) tells the kids to get the pots and spoons.  Because this is what you do when your team wins the series.  She hands the biggest pot to me, the biggest Phillies fan, and the kids run outside to bang and whoop into the cold October air.  I sit on the couch with my hands in my pockets, because this is what I do.  I don’t know how to do joy.  [Insert bad lesbian joke here.]  There’s a part of me deep inside that glows bright yellow, but that’s not for anyone to see.

Later on, I’ll get the year 2008 added to my Phillies tattoo.  Because that’s how I roll, carving reminders of happy times into my flesh.

I can think of some spontaneous expressions of joy.  There’s the time that W and I are in a local convenience store picking out snacks for a road trip.  The Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” comes on, and I serenade her in the store.

Marry him, marry me
I’m the one that loved you baby can’t you see?
Ain’t got no future or family tree
But I know what a prince and lover ought to be
I know what a prince and lover ought be

The moment lasts for 15 seconds or so.

There are other times, too.  When the cat does something so cute that I have to make “awww” noises out loud.  When my son calls in the middle of the week for no real reason.  That time I got Freshly Pressed.  Yay!  Even though I was writing about disappointment (and the Phillies losing the 1993 series).  Boo!

Maybe that’s the key — finding the joy in the small, everyday moments in order to live a more joyous life.  A perfect vanilla latte made by the cute barista at the bookstore, a just-right Windsor knot on a necktie, a new pair of warm socks, the glory that is flannel, a freshly pressed button-down dress shirt, a favorite Melissa Etheridge song that comes on the radio when I least expect it, Olivia Newton-John back in the day in those skintight black pants …

The big things aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be anyway.  The Phillies only win the World Series every three decades or so, and the holidays never seem to live up to all of their hype.  Case in point: fruitcake.

And maybe then that place inside will glow a little brighter and I’ll smile or laugh out loud or scream a big hearty yawp into the midnight air.

0 thoughts on “I Don’t Know How To Do Joy

  1. Mrs Fever Post author

    I love this description: There’s a part of me that glows bright yellow, but that’s not for anyone to see.

    Joy is something we carry with us, deep inside. I think sometimes we protect that light and warmth inside ourselves for fear that showing it or sharing it ~ bringing it out into the elements ~ might cause that candle to burn out.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

    (And for Olivia Newton-John, in those tight, tight black pants. 😉 )

    1. middleagebutch

      I guess that’s what’s safe — hiding that glowing part of ourselves. And I know I hide it way too much. Maybe I’ll work on that this coming year. Maybe not. Who knows.

      Your welcome for the post and for Olivia Newton-John. But I really can’t take credit for the latter.

      1. Mrs Fever Post author

        No, I suppose it was the director of Grease who was responsible for the latter. Did you know she had to be *sewn in* to those pants? I read an interview she did for Grease’s 20th Anniversary, and she said she couldn’t drink anything all day on the day they shot that scene, because once those pants came off, they had to be ripped off. Literally. At the seams.


        {I am a veritable font of useless knowledge. This is but one teensy example of all the ri-donc-u-lous facts I carry around in my head. 😛 }

  2. middleagebutch

    Reblogged this on The Flannel Files and commented:
    I had an opportunity to participate in a group blog on the topic of joy. You can read what I wrote, below. A big shout out to my blogging buddy, Mrs. Fever, who asked me to come out and play. I encourage you all to check out her blog, which is aptly titled “Temperature’s Rising.” Don’t be afraid. Mrs. Fever doesn’t bite. Much.

  3. kanienke

    I had to think about this post for a while before responding. I really liked how this post transported me through a range of emotions. One line in particular really leapt out at me: “it’s scary to feel happy when we’re waiting for that happiness to be extinguished.”

    It is true; I was reminded of that tingle of dread that I often feel when I’m overwhelmingly happy, the fear of knowing that after that, and every other peak moment in life, my experience invariably dwindled, or turned to ash, or became a great big long coast downhill.

    And yet, I am pretty much an eternally optimistic person, because I go chasing the next great adventure in my life, hoping that this time it might be wonderful AND long-lasting.

    I loved how this post ended up, focusing instead on the joy of a whole lot of little perfect moments. Those are the moments of perfect joy for me because once realized, they can’t be whisked away because the whole story was played out, beginning to end, in only a moment.

    Maybe I’m ruining all the good stuff by piling up too many expectations — pinning too many hopes on it. I think probably I should live a little more in the moment.

    1. middleagebutch

      Congrats on being an optimist. I always wonder what that’s like.
      Maybe the answer IS in celebrating the little joys in life. I don’t know. I have trouble with that, too.
      Here’s to living in the now or at least trying to. I’ll get it right someday.


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