Joy is a revolutionary act.
I didn’t come up with this idea.
The idea that joy is a form of resistance against oppression is one that has been attributed to many people before me. All women, I might add.
Adrienne Maree Brown writes that “pleasure is a measure of freedom,” which means that joy, being an integral part of pleasure, is a measure of freedom, too.
And yet, most of us have a fairly complicated relationship to pleasure and joy.
Especially those of us who are women.
And even more so if we’re moms.
While I don’t think this is exclusive to moms, I do think that we’re more inclined toward it.
Moms have a tendency to weigh their own needs against the needs of the ones they love and care for.
Usually kids, partners, parents, neighbors, pets, mail delivery persons needs weigh in higher than their own.
If they are able to tend to those needs and satisfy them, mom feels exhausted but accomplished.
And if the needs of those others aren’t met, the guilt sets in.
This guilt is intensified if mom has done something that makes her feel good while the ones she loves suffer.
Even if their suffering is minor.
Like for example, “mom, these noodles taste weird with butter.”
The same noodles I have always made that you asked for with butter and that I made before I even made my own food?
Yes. Those noodles.
It also doesn’t help if you’re a bleeding heart, Lisa Simpson, activist-type of a human being like I am.
Everything weighs heavily.
The warming of the oceans, the disappearing coral reefs, the plastic all of the fish are consuming and choking on.
Monsanto and chemicals in our soil.
The systemic racism that our country is built upon and the many, many, many black lives that have been lost as a result. The legacy of oppression left in its wake.
Our rapist-in-chief. The fact that the people of this country would rather elect one of 2 white men, both accused of sexual assault, than a long list of intelligent, highly qualified women.
I could go on. There is so much.
That piled on top of the daily challenges of parenting in the time of Covid. Parenting in general.
It’s all just so much.
Smiling feels almost offensive. Laughter is like a crime.
Except they’re not.
Joy is a revolutionary act.
In order to engage fully in the world, we — you, me, all of us — need to experience the full spectrum of emotion.
It is ok to be angry, to feel guilty, to be ashamed, to be sad, to be outraged.
These might not feel good all the time, but sometimes, when we pay close attention to why we’re feeling what we feel, we can use them to create change.
The same is true of pleasure and joy.
These might be more uncomfortable than anger or guilt.
You might feel more familiar with those feelings of rage or shame or guilt or frustration or grief, so you feel that while it might not be acceptable to have them in high quantities, it is expected.
The thing is, pleasure and joy fuel activism, too.
The ability to experience pleasure and joy, without reservation, is what we are fighting for as parents and human beings.
Joy is disruptive. Pleasure pushes back against the societal norms of how women are supposed to act and feel.
To be clear, this is not about toxic positivity.
This is not pretending everything is ok when it’s not or saying ridiculous things like, “good vibes only” or “love and light are all you need.”
You’re not ignoring the darkness in favor of the light.
You’re allowing them to coexist.
This is about reclaiming the things that make you feel good, owning them, and choosing to do what makes your eyes sparkle, giggle loudly, and smile with your entire body.
AND doing this without feeling an ounce of shame or guilt.
Instead proudly choosing joy.
I can’t say this comes easily or naturally to me.
It’s hard work.
Worthwhile, necessary work.
Otherwise, what are we fighting for?
What future are we looking to create if we’re not checking into what uplifts us in the present?
So here are a few things that bring me pleasure lately:
Eating fresh, ripe cherries
Making my baby giggle
Dancing because a certain song comes on and I can’t not dance when I hear it
Connecting with students all across the country to do yoga online and chatting before class like we would in studio
Watching the sun rise over the lake
Chocolate chips in peanut butter as a snack
Wearing overalls all day everyday
My husband kissing my neck while I am making dinner
Sitting on the dock, staring out at the water and dipping my toes in
Seek out joy.
Reclaim your connection to pure pleasure.
These are your birthright.
Giving yourself permission to experience both is revolutionary act that will not only change your life, but change the world.