Joy is a wonderful, enchanting thing. It’s why Jessica and I created our podcast, Joy Sandwich. But joy, as so beautifully told in the movie Inside Out, is intrinsically connected to all of our other emotions. I love these emotions.
I had a friend recently comment on a certain disposition I was reveling in. He said, “you are so positive.” I laughed and mused warmly. Part of me was tickled by my effortless deception. If only he knew! But the other part of me, that part with the random oh my shit what in hell’s name are these tears for in the car on my commute home from work and the intermittent but thankfully diminishing daydreams about punching my father directly in his schnoz. This part of me typically feels compelled to blather on about the wonder that is depression or almost wistful melancholy or the aforementioned flawed wishes to diminish the tyrannical patriarchy to a bloodied black bean mush-oval. But I usually don’t take it that far. You’re welcome.
The truth is that we should all talk about these things more, not less. Our collective overlords we refer to as the societal norms like to tell us that we should all be happy and we have so many things to be happy about and just get better hashtag blessed. I am sorry but that’s not how it works. It’s not that easy. And it shouldn’t be.
We are complex creatures. Our anatomy alone is mind boggling to consider, but I’d like you to try for a moment to consider the gargantuan complexity that is our anatomy. Our bones. Our neural pathways. We have pathways in our bodies! Our brains. Our brains! It’s amazing. The same is true of our emotional complexity. I have like eleven emotions I’m processing while I write this. One of which rhymes with “boy” and one rhymes with “beer.”
But it’s not just that I can have multiple emotions at once. It’s about how these emotions work with each other. They are pals, part of the same team, intrinsically connected. We need them all, even the ones society tells us we should most assuredly stuff down until our chests pang with the sharpness of one million samurai swords.
I liken it sometimes to the way our complex meat sacks require a variety of different minerals and vitamins (and beer). Emotions are like vitamins. Sometimes they are hard to swallow but we just need to process them.
People who know me well know that life hasn’t always been full of joy (see schnoz punching). I have an announcement to make: this is the case for every single human on the planet. There’s a smorgasbord of emotion within each of us. Highs and lows and everything in between. And then you have depression, which is it’s own category, a deep, dark, burrowing pest that sometimes feels like you have a rhinoceros trying to straddle your shoulders in that shoulder-sitting swimming pool game you played with your friends when you were younger but where you only just ever tried not to drown. For those people, please know that I love you and am thinking of you.
When I created Joy Sandwich, it wasn’t about being joyful all the time. That’s impossible, as I’ve said. It’s also creepy. And potentially stabby. To me, Joy Sandwich is a reminder to our audience (but mostly myself) that there is certainly much to be joyful about. And this joy is integral to who we are as humans. But it doesn’t rule. It’s part of a team. Joy Sandwich is like, in a sense, the lightness in the world that can be dark (and light and also a mix between light and dark, and neapolitan). Life can be shitball city at times. Of course it can. Dads can be dick holes. Moms can get cancer. Mental illness can be this impenetrable force of confusion and heartache. That is what we call life. Life is this malleable, amorphous thing. It’s what we bring to it that makes it special. It’s within these emotional Thunder Mountains where we learn, grow, develop the insight we need to make it potentially less shitty the next time.
So about that movie, Inside Out (minor spoiler ahead). I love it. Did I mention that? It’s fantastic and you should see it. In the movie, the character of Joy is affecting (naturally), persuasive, and even a little bossy at times. Consequently, Joy, or joy in this case, is the main emotion in Riley’s (the kid) life. But then Riley’s family moves. AND THINGS ARE EMOTIONAL, PEOPLE. Of course! Riley doesn’t know how to process all of the emotions. They are overwhelming. So she reacts the way any human would: she freaks out, and joy is taken over by sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. Through this journey, the character of Joy discovers that Sadness is just as important to the life force of Riley.
And it’s beautiful. And there were tears. And I thank Pixar once again for their unequaled ability to tell stories for children and adults that feature an awe-inspiring complexity of emotion (quite literally in this case) we, as complex emotional human creatures, know and fight against and use to navigate this absurd world of ours.
Which is all just a way of saying that, in life, I need to know it’s okay to embrace my emotions. I need to know that it’s okay to muse upon them and pick at them and discover the ways in which they affect me and those around me. I need to know it’s okay to cry in my car and have those occasional schnoz-punching daydreams. I need to know that it’s okay to just be sad. Without that emotional journey, I’m just a stick in the dirt. A potentially stabby, emotionally stagnant stick in the dirt.