Happiness v. Joy

Photo by flickr user "Shakespearesmonkey."

Photo by flickr user “Shakespearesmonkey.”

I went to church on Easter Sunday. It’s been awhile. I’m one of those bad Christians who really only goes twice a year – if I can even commit to that. I had a bad break-up with the church years ago, so these days I tend to consider myself a person of faith – not just of Christianity, but spirituality altogether – Buddhism, Judaism, Islam – they all have some messaging I can hold onto. And the whole “person of faith” thing – that’s only on a good day. I just try to strive to be a good person who understands right from wrong and only fucks up every once in a while.

Even so, I’ll go to church. I’ll admit that I tend to feel a little uncomfortable, like I’m the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit. But I always seem to find some sort of inspiration or lesson that fits into my life, too. I’m happy to take that.

Easter Sunday was no exception. The pastor at Deer Valley Lutheran was starting a session on joy. And I learned a little something – or rather was reminded of a little something. And that’s the difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness is temporary, fleeting, usually material. Joy is something that’s constant and needs to be nurtured and lives within.

I needed that reminder on Sunday.

When I chose to quit dance performance in January, I knew it would be hard. I’ve dedicated my life since the age of 10 to showing off onstage, inspiring others through movement, sharing stories through performance. I placed most of my energy into training, costuming, building my name, taking chances. Dance makes me joyful. It isn’t temporary. It’s an identity, a way of life, something that satisfies my soul.

When you leave that behind, what’s left?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I stacked my world with future opportunities back in January – a couple of choreography gigs, intention to learn how to play the guitar, those sorts of things. But I had to wait a few months to get those projects started – and I also had to take some time to heal from a back injury in November. In the interim, I started to lose some joy.

I turned to happiness – in the form of new clothes, manicures and pedicures, lots of food, those sorts of thing. String ‘em together and there’s a hell of a lot of happiness there. But not much underneath it.

Listening to the pastor Sunday, I realized what was missing. Here’s the deal. I need joy in my life. It’s that simple.

Since Sunday, I’ve been rethinking and refocusing.

This is what joy looks like. Photo by the wonderful Devon Christopher Adams.

This is what joy looks like. Photo by the wonderful Devon Christopher Adams.

Here are the things that make me joyful:

  • Teaching – sharing my knowledge and talent with others
  • Helping others – philanthropic efforts where I make a difference
  • Making my boyfriend smile and laugh
  • Being surrounded by people who inspire me and who are simply good people
  • Artistic expression
  • Projects that require dedication and work

Yes, I’m a work horse- people pleaser-hopeful romantic with kickass friends. And I like it that way. I need it that way, because it fulfills me in ways that ice cream cones or a new cardigan never will.

And now that I’ve taken some inventory, I’ll be searching for joy daily. That search has already yielded some pretty fantastic results.

Last night marked my second night teaching choreography for a youth production of Aladdin that a good friend of mine is directing. Rehearsals are three hours, but they feel like five minutes. The kids are amazing and willing and sweet. I feel useful. I’m creating another world. I’m making a difference in the lives of these kids and if I can affect them positively in any way, I’ll be ecstatic. Last night, I happily stayed up till about 11 working on more choreography, sipping wine, and giddily rerunning the song “One Jump Ahead.”

I’ve started posting one thing I’m grateful for every day on my Facebook, so I can keep in mind all of the things that make my life so beautiful.

I’ve scheduled philanthropy projects with good girl friends, so we can give back to the community together…and dish some gossip at the same time.

I’ve been flirting shamelessly with my boyfriend. I can’t wait to see him again.

The past few days, I’ve felt full, brimming over, positive. I suddenly have so much energy and optimism. Rediscovering joy is a beautiful thing…And I’m beginning to feel like I’m back.


2 thoughts on “Happiness v. Joy

  1. What a wonderful, wonderful JOYFUL blog post. I forget about joy myself sometimes. This is a great reminder. PS: Glad church was good to you this weekend. xoxo

    • It really was a good reminder. This week has been a really good one – to be honest, the first really good one in a quick minute, because I’ve been able to reconnect with myself. Sometimes, we all need a “RESET” button. Planning to go to church with my friend Nikki while I’m in San Diego this weekend. Looking forward to another lesson. 🙂

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