When thinking about what I would write on the topic of joy, my mind immediately landed on my paternal grandmother. Her name is Simcha, which means Joy in Hebrew. I used to call her “Granny Joy.” She would have been 100 years old this past year if she were still here in physical form.
What strikes me as significant about my grandmother and JOY, is that she experienced tragedy and struggle in her life, yet, by the time I got to meet her, her joy seemed to be so available regardless. Granted, she had seven children, 16 grandchildren, and twenty-something great grandchildren to feel joyful about, (well, and to worry about), but there was and is something very meaningful and significant to me about my grandmother and joy.
If my grandmother were alive and I asked her what gave her the most joy, outside of her family, she hands down would have said gardening. And why gardening? Because it took her mind off of everything and brought her into the present moment with beauty, with the earth, with the roses, with the poppies, the squash, the green beans, the peach tree, the avocado tree, plum tree, and the fig tree. It brought her hands into the earth – into the soil with the seeds.
My grandmother could laugh, and she did – a lot. She laughed in conversation with others - this joyful laughter that seemed to come when she was in the company of others.
As I mentioned, she experienced loss and heartache and pain, just like the rest of us, yet this didn’t seem to interfere with her ability to feel joy. Yes, during those times of great suffering, I imagine it absolutely interfered. But in her life, in general, there was this ability to find the joy again and again by doing things that spoke to her soul, to her being. Gardening and family were those things for her. She didn’t seem to need to chase the joy, she seemed to connect to what she loved and the joy would start coming through her.
In thinking about my grandmother, how I experience joy, and how my friends have described their experiences with it to me, it seems like an internal state that comes from our being, and it seems tied to being able to feel present in the moment.
The safety, security and feeling of love I feel when I think of my Granny Joy, of Simcha, feels deeply rooted in her love for her family, her ability to nurture us and her own ability to connect to the JOY that she could bring through her. There is something safe and nurturing about joy - something that feels organic, authentic, deeply alive, and available to everyone.
Michelle Levy, PhD, is a Registered Psychological Assistant #PSB94024010 working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Dr. Levy’s clinical interests focus on parenting practices, attachment, child mental health and developmental concerns, as well as the effects of trauma on youth, families and communities.