As bell hooks said, "To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal well-being and joy." Research from top organisations (including the CDC, the Department of Education, the NAACP, and Pew Research) shows that if you are Black, this means:
- You are more likely to die from COVID-19 than a white person
- You are more likely to die from breast cancer
- You are more likely to be denied a mortgage even if you meet all the requirements
- As a child, you are more likely to be disciplined or suspended from school
- You are more likely to be killed by a police officer
- You are more likely to be imprisoned
The list goes on and on. These are not fanciful notions blooming inside my own head. These are facts, backed by extensive research. Google it.
When you live in a country that makes it difficult for you to simply exist, bringing joy into your life is a revolutionary act. Especially right now. To be Black and joyful in a world such as ours, this is radical, rebellious, and powerful. Joy is healing. Joy is medicinal. Joy makes life worth living and gives human beings a reason to protest, fundraise, and work to build a better world. Without joy, we wither and give up. Without joy, why bother?
As a Black woman, mother of four kids, and primary breadwinner for my household, here's how I've been creating joy for my family lately:
- The joy of water slides.
I bought an inflatable water slide for the backyard. Parents, seriously: best purchase I ever made! I read an Amazon review for this slide that basically said, "My kids played on this for 5 hours straight and didn't come inside and bother me even once," and I couldn't click "Buy" fast enough. Sold! My kids love it. I love it. We take turns sliding and making hilarious slow-motion videos on our phones. Epic joy.
- The joy of nature.
As often as possible, we're getting out of the house, heading to the nearby lake, renting kayaks, and getting sunshine on our skin. We've also been taking walks, riding bikes, and filling the house with indoor plants, too.
- The joy of slow mornings.
Pre-COVID, mornings were a frenzied rush to get everyone bathed, scrubbed, dressed, fed, hydrated, packed, and shuffled off to the school! These days, we have slow mornings together. We snuggle. We talk. We eat breakfast at the table for an hour with no phones. We play with the dog. Immense joy.
- The joy of unplugging.
Now that school is out and summer is here, we've put the iPads away and hid the TV remotes. Okay, we still enjoy the occasional Netflix binge, but overall, we've reduced tech time considerably. The kids are reading books, playing imaginative games inside a tent we set up in the playroom, and taking bubble baths. We all feel calmer and happier without being latched to our devices 24/7.
- The joy of sitting and doing nothing.
Many evenings, we sit outside the house and just . . . do nothing. We talk. We laugh. We wave at neighbours. The kids ride their bikes up and down the block. Sometimes we listen to the hum of the crickets and distant cars, or watch the moon rise. We've turned the front of our house into a Brooklyn stoop, and it brings us great joy. Simple pleasures.
- The joy of refining and upgrading.
Due to COVID-19, my work schedule has changed dramatically. Usually, as the CEO of Hello Seven, a business coaching firm for women entrepreneurs, I'm around the country going to conferences, leading training sessions for my team, or meeting with clients face to face. Now, I'm not doing any of that, so I have much more time at home. The silver lining? Numerous opportunities to sit down with my kids and discuss the Big Stuff. We're talking about racism and doing hard things and manageing boredom. We're asking them: What kind of person do you want to be? What are our priorities as a family? What's working, and what's not? How do we want to live? We are joyfully refining and upgrading every part of our lives.
It can sometimes feel like you're not "allowed" to feel joy — like it's insensitive (or even offencive) to experience the highest heights of joy when so many people are suffering. Like you should postpone joy for another time. Someday in the future. Once things are better.
The miracle of being human is your capacity to experience so many emotions all at once. All within the same day, you can feel anger, frustration, grief, loneliness, hope, pride, and immense joy. You don't have to pick just one emotion. You can feel it all. Including joy. Especially joy. Especially if you are a Black person. And especially now.