Joie De Vivre

I have never known such joy.

It feels… suspicious… to be this consistently, blazingly happy. I have done nothing to earn it. I certainly don’t deserve it.

It feels as if I caught happiness like an illness, that it should only be mine for a little while, a jubilant delirium as transient as a butterfly. I keep expecting its flight, a return to normalcy, and yet… I seem to have found my new normal in joy.

Happiness, to me, was a mild season, occasionally sharing a gentle warmth for a stretch, often appearing in spite of the shadows of illness and death, loneliness in crowds or in myself (for what young woman truly knows herself?), or my rather pronounced teenaged angst.

Stretching from the conclusion of my melodramatic teen years to my mid-twenties was a series of funerals: my uncle, my remaining grandparents (one after the other), a few others close to the one I then loved, and finally my mother. Grief was my constant companion, and happiness found in the temporary forgetting, in distraction, in sleep.

I learned early to dance in the rain, shivering with cold and exhaustion (undiagnosed hypothyroidism is an absolute bitch), because the alternative was no alternative at all. I was strong because I had no other acceptable choice, enjoyed the mild sunshine when it peeked through the heavy clouds, and contented myself with flashes of brief fun.

I’d never known this fiery, tenacious iteration of joie de vivre, let alone expected its endurance.

And yet, it remains.

It’s not found in our constant travel or grand sweeping gestures, though I am grateful for and cherish those coveted moments as well.

No, I find this blazing joy in the smallest spaces.

It’s in jolting awake at four in the morning, unable or unwilling to fall back to sleep because your toes and legs are literally abuzz with love; I didn’t realize how it could seize you from a sound sleep, your ribs so bruised with vibrant emotion that breathing nearly hurts.

It’s in the sharp elbows of the sweet old dog who sprawls across me every morning, determined to cuddle with me, her chosen mother. It’s in the unexpected rasp of whiskers against my cheek and a quick, stolen kiss between work calls. It’s in the open claws of my screechy parrot, fully trusting in me at long last through one extended talon. It’s in pictures traded daily from across great distances, lives shared in snapshots until we meet again. It’s in the sunshine filtering through macrame twists in my kitchen window.

Maybe this is just what happens when you spend your youth dancing through storms: you surprise yourself and learn to fly in the blazing sun, hoping to goodness you don’t fly too high lest your good fortune run out, sending you plunging back into the icy sea.

May these memories break our fall.