Joy is an act of defiance.
The New York Times
Because the world is too much, the outlook so grim. Because my heart hurts and my body is burden. Because there is much breaking and the mending is so slow. Because of this, joy is a struggle but also a balm.
When I meet with a friend, our time is filled with wine and laughter. It's not that I'm happy, she says, but that if I don't laugh I'll cry.
We're relieved to have found an envelope of safety where laughter buffers despair.
At the nursing home the man sings What a Wonderful World, and Betty cries.
Real tears, full tears that she wipes away with the full of her hand, then looks around with a half-smile, embarrassed. She's not alone; a lump has gathered in my throat too.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
The singer is a one-man-band but I’m moved nonetheless. We're sitting in a dining room turned temporary concert hall, and suddenly I’m so damn sad. When I look about the room — the vacant stares and blank faces —I wonder the point: Why the charade of fun and light, of music and good times? So many of these folks are in pain, some of them out-of-mind, seemingly numb and distant.
And yet, there’s Betty with a sad smile, the music moving her to someplace deep and meaningful. And when I look closer, Helen, sitting next to her, is gazing at Betty with a sort of empathy I’d never seen. And a few wheelchairs away Rose is swaying gently in her chair.
Though we are alone and lost in ourselves, music is the powerful nudge, stirring mind and memory to tell us we are here, now, that we are loved, and that we have loved too.
. . . and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Because of this, I run water for a bath, slip into lavender and eucalyptus, and gratefully wash the weary away.
* as always, names are changed.