Someone asked me the other day how to find joy in these hard times of the coronavirus.
And I had to say that experiencing joy in such times is less the result of “finding” it than of being open to it.
As I face this pandemic with every other human on the planet, I ricochet between fear, grief, hope, love of the quiet, nostalgia, gratitude for my loved ones, anger, the urge to escape …. All are real. None is permanent.
If I set out to find joy, I might be disappointed. I might try to snatch at instants I think might be joy, only to discover that they just don’t penetrate very deeply. And then I might get discouraged and think, well, there really is no joy in hard times. It’s just plain hard and miserable.
But if I am open to dark emotions, acknowledging them without taking refuge in them, then I find I am cracked open wide enough to be flooded with radiant emotions as well. I feel sadness, but also wonder, joy, sweetness. The smallest thing can move me deeply.
Today, for example, on a gloomy, back-to-winter day, when the aisles of the supermarket were almost empty and people were keeping their physical distance while greeting each other with smiles of we’re-all-in-this-together, and all the headlines on the newspaper stand screamed a worsening situation…. I did not find but was found by some little pansy plants. And they are giving me joy.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.


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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.