Joy in the Time of Corona
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
May 19, 2020
Note: This essay is going to be annoying for people who don’t want shiny, happy things waved in their faces right now. I get it. Stop reading if you need to.
One of the hallmarks of unusual, stressful life circumstances is that the highs feel higher and the lows feel lower. I noticed this in the newborn days with Alex. One little baby smile -- or even a cute hiccup! -- and you are floating on clouds. Your spouse questions why you haven’t thrown out the smelly diapers yet and you are curled up on the floor, drowning in despair. Corona times causes this phenomenon, too, at least for me.
The other day, I wrote about mental health challenges in the times of Corona. Those feelings are real and powerful. It’s easy to slip into depression when the usual outlets are not available. Interacting with other people and experiencing new things are strong antidepressants and are available in limited form only right now (ugggg, Zoom). Depending where you live and on your schedule, things like exercise and even going outside may be difficult. There is; however, something available that is an antidote to depression. Gratitude may immediately come to mind, but that’s not where I’m going. Gratitude can be frustratingly out of reach when so much is impossible. No, I’m thinking about a different type of emotion -- joy.
Joy is not “I’m so happy I get to spend more time with my family.” It’s not, “Phew, no more commute!” Or “Woohoo, I don’t have to drive the kids to their activities!” Joy is fleeting. It’s noticing something beautiful or delightful. It’s a brief moment of happiness. I believe joy may be the solution to the despair we are collectively feeling. Noticing and savoring joyful experiences may stave off depression. There is actually research on this -- mindfulness is a powerful tool to improve mental health -- but rather than looking up the statistics, I just want to focus on the moments of joy I have experienced recently and invite others to do the same.
My Joyful Moments in the Time of Corona:
● feeling Daniel’s little gentle hands on my feet, painting my toes as the sun warmed my arms while I sipped our homemade cucumber “spa water” and we listened to Spanish guitar music,
● biting into a warm, fresh, berry pie made with cherries picked by the kids and tasting the sweet, tangy filling the moment it hit my tongue,
● watching Daniel complete a treasure hunt that Alex set up for him and discover the treasure wrapped in a note saying “I love you little bro,”
● coming to the end of the first episode of “Lego Masters” and seeing Alex excited to keep watching together, as a family,
● admiring Daniel, after just two lessons taught by his new tennis coach (me), hit a powerful groundstroke that landed right on the line,
● (guilty pleasure alert) settling comfortably into the couch after the kids went to bed with a bowl of animal crackers and the remote on my lap, about to push play on the incredibly trashy show “Love is Blind,”
● watching Enrique study the rules of YuGiOh so he could play with Alex and then demonstrating his new skills: “I summon the monster!”,
● opening an email from my mom saying that she and my dad love my essays, and
● there was ONE Zoom call that brought joy -- when all 30+ members of Enrique’s extended family from an infant all the way to his 91 year-old Nonna called in on Easter Sunday. It may have been the first time every single person was in the same place together, even though it was a virtual place. I felt a sense of wonder at the strength of the family and the value of every single family member.
What moments of joy have you felt recently?