This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through a few months of feelings that feel bigger than I can manage. But I am growing, because I figured out that for me, I can decide that no one gets to steal my joy. I can make it. I just need to claw out, climb out, stop snarling, start singing. And do a few stupid things just because they make me happy. So this is ordering American flag onesies on amazon and decorating the house for Christmas on November 10th. It’s lots and lots of vine compilations (rip vine) and searching “dogs being cute” or “faith restored in humanity” videos and standing in front of the fridge and eating things I don’t even taste.
There are a lot of afternoons in the hammock reading through my news and twitter feed until I make myself put it away and focus on the sunset. Lots of Psalms in my earbuds as I’m working through the Bible in its entirety every three years, and realizing the attention span of the human being is short; that we repeat our mistakes endlessly and somehow still survive. And still hoping the arc of the moral universe indeed is long, and that it will eventually bend towards justice.
I make the elementary students give me hugs or compliments or tell jokes before I let them ask for the bathroom pass at recess. I let my high school students – Brazilian, American, French, Angolan, Colombian and more come up and embrace me as they have since November 9, as people in Brazil know as well as most people on this planet what it is like to feel betrayed by election results and the fallout afterwards.
It’s work to be happy – I have to remind myself about every hour that no one gets to steal my joy. Especially if I’m going to work hard to find it. So I will find it.
My joy is in teaching 8th grade Bible, and having the unexpected responsibility and trauma of teaching the room what circumcision is, and watching a boy mime it out for his friend who doesn’t speak much English. And letting kids know they’re not condemned to hell for any reason they can come up with (“kissing, Miss? Dancing, Miss? What if my parents are divorced?”) And knowing that even if I am totally floundering through this class, we are having real discussions about faith, life as a Christian, and these kids are learning something.
My joy is babysitting my favorite south africans, and trying to balance two warm pajama-ed bodies on my lap while simultaneously narrating the greatest version of “Horton Hatches the Egg” ever and trying not to cry when tiny hands and big smiles clamor for my attention.
My joy is in karaoke nights with my single mom friends and their kids, nearly killing myself on a hover board, screaming at cockroaches, getting mildly electrocuted, teaching the watermelon crawl, and ignoring my lactose intolerance in favor of a Dominoes delivery.
My joy is in getting an MRI, when I hate hate hate hospitals, in a foreign country, where I have lived for on my third year, but am not fluent in the language, but I went for it. I got naked and put on crazy headphones. I couldn’t figure out the paper sock things. And for some reason, all the TVs in the waiting room where I waited an hour past my appointment time slot were playing that movie where Paul Walker hangs out with alaskan huskies, so I was beyond emotional before even entering the nurse station. And because I am me, only at the last minute did I remember my belly button is pierced, and had to stop the machine to pull it out to hand to the attendant bc I became suddenly convinced it would somehow magnetize out my butt if I didn’t.
My joy is dressing up like a hotdog for a circus-themed event at school, jousting with teacher friends in the blow-up ring and shouting “I’m the WEINER!” at every moment, random dance parties with my roommate and second graders, and a dozen kids asking me to facepaint a hotdog on them instead of the butterflies and hello kitties and spiders we had advertised and feeling my heart melt all over the place.
And it’s in a renewed passion and motivation to continue in international education – we can only overcome whatever prejudices and silly notions about each other we might have if we force and fight our way through any barrier someone might set in front of us. I can do this – I can teach kids from a million countries to love kids from every country. I can be the unofficial United States ambassador of hugs and awesome and good times. I flew that flag during the Olympics and it is a solid dream to do it again.
And this election gutted me.
I think we all learned that we haven’t been talking enough to each other. That we have a much greater responsibility to be kinder than we ought. Because there is a lot of hurt, a lot of anger, and I only see love overcoming it.
If you haven’t heard it today and you need to – you are sunshine on a cloudy day.