List 3: Midnight Radio, or, Joy as an Act of Resistance

This post is part of a series inspired by the 52 lists project journal; read more about my intention and approach in the original post here.

Week 3 / List 3: List the happiest moments of your life so far.

This week, I’m not actually going to include my entire list in the post (sorry!) because, in a strange way, this list feels deeply personal. I mean, I can imagine most people feeling sheepish to share their darkest or saddest moments, but there’s something about articulating my greatest joys that made me feel a little squirmy.

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Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a little wary of my happiness. I’ve written and said before: nothing too terribly tragic has ever happened to me. Certainly I’ve experienced no great or surprising losses, no traumas or crimes. My heartbreaks have been relatively routine; painful, sure, but the kind of pain that comes with just being a living person. And I love many people who have suffered far worse than me. So sometimes I worry that the scale isn’t balanced; that talking too much about my happiness with either curse me, or worse, hurt others.

But this week, in particular, I needed the reminders of the beauty in my life. So I’ll talk about some themes or commonalities I saw in my list.

Almost every item on there involved someone else: my husband. My family. My friends. My dog. And many of these involved hearing about / sharing in their triumphs and celebrations. Seeing my sister, for example, in her joyful progress towards motherhood (a few short weeks away, we hope!) has been a highlight of the last year of my life.

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Of course, I found joy in many of my own accomplishments, too: the most recent and dramatic of which was finding out Greystone was going to publish my book. But I also saw that much of my joy comes from smaller wonders, too: baking with my new Kitchenaid honestly had me beaming! I listed more than one transcendent musical experience.

Finally, I noticed how many of my happiest memories are strongly connected to place — travel, especially. Places I feel grateful to have experienced. Places that have rearranged my insides. Places that I’ve visited during significant transitions in my life from Victoria, British Columbia to a cheap motel in Missoula, Montana, from London markets to Venetian piazzas.

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Through it all, I saw brightness. Color. Light. Connection.

We saw the national tour of Hedwig & the Angry Inch in Pittsburgh last night, and I wept big and hard. The production is astounding: bright and loud and unabashed in its celebration of the glorious messiness of self-discovery and living as an act of resistance.

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The show reminded me, as I said earlier on Facebook, that the best resistance is built on as much mischief and color and joy as anger. That singing and dancing your ‘fuck you’ to the establishment is soul-restoring. And most of all, that boundaries and borders are useless, soul-crushing, damaging illusions.

In this time, I needed that reminder very much. I find a lot of promise in the idea that my happiest memories can be loud and colorful, and that this itself is a form of fighting the darkness in my life and the lives of others. I don’t have to feel scared or ashamed of my joy. I just have to find a way to take all that love and light and use it to fight against the forces that would take it away from the vulnerable.

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