Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Moving day is on Thursday, and I am sitting in a half-empty house. I’m moving to a lovely but much smaller house, and I’ve given away a lot of furniture, all of which was picked up over the weekend. New, appropriately sized couches and chairs and tables will start arriving once we move, but for now, we are rattling around in mostly vacant rooms. We are all adapting surprisingly well to this physical evidence of a turning of a page in our family’s story.
I am thinking, of course, of the events of the past eight months that have brought me to this moment. I remember the shock, bewilderment and searing grief of a husband’s unexpected departure. I remember the blur of months spent putting one foot in front of the other, of just surviving to do it again the next day. I remember the agonizing conversion of a longstanding partnership into a set of legal obligations. I remember my children’s pain and my own. I remember the friends who drifted away, compounding the loss.
But I remember, too, everyone who swarmed around, who called, who let me cry on the phone and in restaurants and in the car and on the tennis court – everywhere, basically – and who acted like it was no big deal that I was leaking constantly, and who fed me dinner and wrote me notes, and who told me that I was fabulous and that I would heal, over and over again. I remember who picked me up when I couldn’t get off the floor on Boxing Day. I remember who took me to the park and found a patch of sunlight to warm me in the dying days of autumn. I remember who left a week of dinners on my doorstep. I remember who took me out for my birthday, and made sure I had a lovely present. I remember each and every act of kindness and love, and I am so grateful. I can’t tell you.
Which brings me to a subject I’ve thought quite a bit about over the past year: the difference between joy and happiness. No one, least of all me, would say that this has been a happy year. But it has been full of moments of unadulterated joy.
I am a big proponent of the cultivation of joy. It seems to me that joy is the great casualty of working motherhood, and of modern life more generally. We treat joy as a frivolity, a distraction from the real work of securing solid, foundational happiness. And that is a great pity, because, as the late, great Maya Angelou observed: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
I’ve come to appreciate the value of joy this year, so much so that I made a video about it.
I am, by nature, quite a joyful person. And this means that even if my life turns to absolute shit in an objective sense, I can still manage to find pleasure in small things. Joy doesn’t require big plans or radical changes. Joy isn’t ambitious. And that means – listen carefully – it isn’t something we can fail at.
Isn’t that a project we should all get behind?
Read Reva’s last letter here.
Read the Pen Pal Project archive here.