Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Since February, I've lost my mom and my dog, and started cancer treatment. Still, I daily find joy.
You think you have trouble? When my phone rings, I no longer say “Hello.”
I say, “Don’t ask.”
Since February, I’ve had to put down my 16-year-old bichon, Rosie, my constant companion; a surgeon removed a foot of my colon and discovered two nodes contained cancer; my 90-year-old mother died 10 minutes before I could reach her side; and I started a chemotherapy routine that includes one infusion, six daily pills, three shots—rinse and repeat every three weeks.
Oh yeah, I’ve been virtually housebound since March, hiding from Covid-19.
Still, I daily find joy.
Joy is different from happiness. While happiness is a state of being, joy is a moment of delight. While I’d be a moron to feel happy during this Job-like assault, I create or grasp joy every day.
In March, when Virginia was on the verge of shutting down, I adopted a Maltese puppy and named him Rocco, because a 5-pound snowball needs the confidence that a tough-sounding name bestows. Rocco is an Energizer puppy who moves at warp speed, then collapses into a nap on my chest with his little head tucked under my chin. Bliss!
I bought a tree swing where I rock early each day in the chilly morning air, watching sparrows and an occasional downy woodpecker as they feast at our feeders.
And I ordered a pound of pastrami and a quart of sour pickles from Katz’s Deli in Manhattan, because Virginia doesn’t know from a fat-marbled pastrami and a face-scrunching pickle.
I’m convinced that I’ve sailed through chemo with only some weird tingling in my hands and feet because these joys produce endorphins that flow through my veins along with the chemo poison that searches and destroys rogue cancer cells.
If I ran the world, or the Arlington school system, I’d add Joy 101 to the curriculum, because finding joy is a learned skill you’ll use a lot more than anything in Algebra II. Here’s what would be on my Joy syllabus:
- Accept that seeking joy isn’t selfish, it’s emotional survival.
- Realize joy is individual; what gives me joy might give you indigestion.
- Consider joy as an emotional utility, not a splurge.
- Recognize that joy often costs money, but so do antidepressants.
Lisa Kaplan Gordon is a freelance writer in McLean and a regular contributor to Arlington Magazine.