This is the season of Joy, or so it is supposed to be. It is easy to slip into disappointment and crushed hopes, because around us are people suffering, corruption, and dishonesty. So how to avoid focusing on despair and keep your eye on the sparrow?
One of my former students, talented Tracey Kelly, forwarded a Ted talk about what creates happiness. The speaker mentions bright color, good design, and round shapes. All these abound at Christmas time. I love seeing lights surrounding houses and pops of red and green in what can be a gray time of year. It’s wonderful that wreaths are now popular throughout the year, but green wreaths with big red bows are my favorite.
I will add some of my own thoughts on what makes for joy. As I am a foodie, great tasting food is my biggest producer of joy. last night we went to Benne on Eagle for a friends-and-family soft opening. OMG!!! It was amazing. My son Natty was hands-on for every step of the creation of this new restaurant owned by John Fleer of Rhubarb, and Natty is running the restaurant for him. The restaurant is attached to a fancy new hotel called The Foundry in what was the traditional African-American neighborhood dubbed “The Block.” The cuisine is an homage to this community with uptakes on Caribbean and Southern foods with nary a cliche in sight. Everything we ate was delicious! I tried the oxtail over rice and pigeon peas. Fabulous! For an app I chose these crispy bean fritters with spicy dip. Again, amazing. My mouth is watering as I write. For me the joy I experienced was compounded by the beautifully designed interior, the smiling faces of the happy diners, and my son’s beaming smile.
I don’t particularly like sweet foods, but have been baking some of my favorites to give to friends who do. I made four batches of Ruggelach that turned out flaky and good, some chocolate Hermits with dried blueberries, and Maida Heater’s extra thin Biscotti. I love to get my hands in flour and the smell of the cookies baking is wonderful. While I prefer Bojangles fried chicken to anything sweet, making these treats was fun.
The Ted speaker was making the point that while we know that certain things make us happy, we still design schools and offices with sharp edges and little color. It’s no wonder that entering such places is depressing, but many people are scared of using color. (I recall entering that heinous juvie facility through the metal gates and into a gray, cinder block school. It makes me shudder even now.) As I browse the many home decor magazines I read, it shocks me how many interiors are devoid of color. I would feel cold in a living room in beige and gray with metal accents and sharp, dangerous-looking light fixtures. My house may not be trendy, but it is colorful and full of whimsical objects that are not afraid to show their age.
On Black Friday as we were recovering from overeating at a marvelous Thanksgiving meal at the Davis family’s home in Indiana, we went shopping at an antique mall. We found a pile of treasures that were both colorful, interesting, and well-made. In contrast, later that day we went to the big mall where Deidre wanted to get something specific from Anthropologie, a store I used to love. It was quirky and colorful in the past, but this year it was stocked with neutral-color clothes in polyester and all synthetic fibers. People were lined up to purchase this expensive stuff I couldn’t stand to touch.
While I enjoy that warm glow that I feel when I am happy, I agree with the Ted speaker that people are suspicious of folks who are too exuberant. They seem like they are shallow and maybe not paying attention to all the bad things around us. My life is great right now. I am doing something that is totally fun every day. I have the best possible partner, and everyone I love is in good health, so I have to try hard to keep from singing. I don’t want to appear shallow, and my singing voice is off-putting.