The opposite of joy would seem to be depression. And in certain metrics it would be so. But I have come to believe that just as often, the opposite of joy is cynicism.
I have a healthy cynicism in regards to many things: People who are always happy. Love at first sight. Many social media gurus. Sometimes social media itself. A large percentage of organized religion. Certain things will always bring out the cynic in me, and I am glad of that. But like many things, it can be overdone. Sometimes I think I am a cynic for too long in regards to too many things.
To be frank, I am that way with reason. I've not had the best of luck when it comes to friendships, romance, business, or employment. I've had no mentors, and virtually no help of any kind throughout my life to get anything important off the ground. Read back over this blog to learn more about that sort of thing. Yet I think that my justified cynicism has sometimes leaked into other areas of my daily life and affected same in ways that are not always healthy.
Allergy sufferers know what histamines are. They are natural and vital compounds in the body which fight off what the body believes are harmful invaders. In the case of an allergy though, histamines go apeshit and overcompensate; they flood the system in defense against something that otherwise would pose little threat. Our own bodies' medicine then becomes our enemy. The result? Swollen, watery eyes. Runny nose. Cough. Rash, etc. To feel better, we take anti-histamines. Drugs designed to actually fight our own bodies fighters. Part of our own defenses end up working against us and have to be tamed. My cynicism sometimes acts like an overzealous histamine. It seeks to defend the joyous but ends up overrunning it.
By joy I do not mean the breath taking, life changing peak experiences of which we all have maybe a half-dozen in life. Nor do I mean that joy has to be skipping about through the meadows. I refer to the best parts of any given week in the life. Or those few elevated moments each day where the fact that you have the day outweighs everything you have to deal with on said day.
Please don't misunderstand. I do feel that kind of joy. Certain activities bring it. The company of certain individuals do so as well. Sometimes even reading an article or listening to music can bring me the simple joy to which I am referring. So I am not a stranger to the idea. Yet I have determined it is time for it to be a more frequent part of my life. But how?
I have talked to "joyful" people as well as read their writings. I ask them what it is that allows them to experience joy as often as they do. Many answer "I just choose to. I can decide to be unhappy, or decide to be happy. I choose happy."
In most cases, I believe people when they say that. (Though my cynicism is standing in the doorway peering in whenever I hear that advice.) It is not for me, however. As much as I, and anyone would like to believe that joy is a simple matter of deciding, the reality is that for many people who are Too XYZ like myself, it will always be more than a simple choice.
No, I need that spiritual anti-histamine. Something(s) that will counteract the excess cynicism, but leave the useful, healthy, and appropriate cynicism intact. It sounds like an irony, but I may have to fight for more joy. Yet the fact that it may require more effort and time doesn't make joy any less important, does it?
Staying away from people who piss me off. Refusing to find ways to tolerate people that have been intolerable for years. Striving to make new joyful friends. Thinning out my Facebook friends list. Reading success stories of people outside of my own field. Having an element of inspiration show up in some of my fiction. Even the simple act of responding to something with silence. All of these things, and more, are weapons in the fight for joy that I have been collecting. More needs to be done, and given who I am I may never reach the levels of joy some of you posses. (I know some incredibly happy people...) But the effort is worth it. Perhaps the effort itself will bring more joy?
How do you bring joy into your life? Any suggestions?