After work on Friday, I gave some food to the homeless people who hang out by Civic Center station. With one sandwich and a croissant, I felt bad when I realized I didn’t have enough to feed everyone. But a kind, older man told me that seeing me happy was enough to brighten his day.
As I ran down the stairs, he called after me. I stopped midway and braced myself for the insult I was sure he’d spit out. He’d changed his mind. I was inconsiderate, lazy, privileged–or worse, he’d call me something derogatory, sexual. But instead he said, “Young lady, don’t let nobody take your joy.”
This comment resonated with me. It’s so simple, and yet profound. Too often in life I play the victim, blaming my job, my commute, and my obligations at home for taking my joy. Why can’t I work on my novel whenever I want to? Why do I have to miss out on social activities with friends on the weekends because that’s the only time I have to write?
Nearly every day, I find a reason I can’t be happy. It’s a long work day, I have to clean the apartment, my husband is still recovering from surgery and his lack of independence has been challenging for both of us. I can’t be happy until life gets easier.
Waiting for my BART train, I thought about the homeless man’s words. I felt lighter. Hell, I was smiling. No one has the power to take away my joy. And it’s better to live in joy each moment, or at least to try, than to feel miserable all the time.
I still haven’t gotten any writing done this weekend, and I’m worried that tomorrow (a holiday) will require getting online and working to make sure nothing has gone wrong with the company website. This is the first year my husband and I haven’t gone camping with friends for Labor Day, because he needs to rest after surgery.
But getting upset about these things is a choice. I can’t pretend I’ve mastered the secret to happiness, but I think I’ve been given some key wisdom. I am the somebody who can take away my joy, and I need to stop doing it.
Looking at my novel plot planner on the wall, I’m making slow but steady progress. I’ve written 62 pages. Yes, it’s daunting knowing I need to write 238 more, but I will get there. I’ve done it before. Twice. Come hell or high water, work stress or family drama, writing is my joy. And I’m not letting nobody take it away from me.