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How Do You Find Your “Primal Joy Bomb”?
There’s a video I want you to see. It’s not just because it’s silly. It’s not just because it’s funny. It’s mainly because of the guy there on the left. The guy with the goatee and the constant grin (There is no audio so don’t adjust your sound).
I’ll give you why that video and the man are important in a minute.
The reason I show you this video is because of something I was asked. “How can you be so happy?” (Read: stable, smiling, calm, not cursing the heavens and screaming every time something bad happens?!)
The answer I gave, while true, is a pretty common answer: “I laugh so that I don’t cry.” While I get that it’s a common phrase and a joking sort of push off of the answer, the reality is I didn’t say what I have since come to realize.
Good things still happen.
Yes, I faced a tragic loss. Yes, I run into days, minutes, smells and sights that will invoke a memory of my wife, Andrea, and I feel that wound in my heart twinge a little bit. Spend half your life with any person, every day, and you’ll have that, too. It’s a certainty.
But I’m nearing the two year mark without Andrea and as hard as those first few months without her were, there were also so many things that continued to inspire me. I saw the worst thing I’d endured to that point in my life. I also saw the best in humanity surrounding me. I lost my best friend and I gained others I hadn’t anticipated in her wake. Tragedy happens all the time, I know that, but so does triumph.
Which brings me to the man you see up there in that video. He is a writer, artist and filmmaker named William Joyce. The video up there you see is one he made the morning after he won an Oscar for best animated short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. (The guy on the right is his co-director Brandon Oldenburg.)
So what does an Oscar-winning director have to do with my point?
Well, he’s also the author of a series of books called The Guardians of Childhood, a series my son, Noah, is extremely excited to be reading. He’s also producer of the movie that was released just this week Rise of the Guardians, based on that very series of books.
But all of this came from a question asked of him by his daughter when she was very young, “Do you think the Tooth Fairy knows Santa Claus?” That very question stuck in his mind – for years – until he made the series a reality, having written three books and two picture books about it already. Now Dreamworks has picked him up.
But the little girl – that beautiful daughter who sparked his imagination – was also a tragic figure in this story. As she became a teenager, his daughter developed a brain tumor. She passed away in 2010 at the age of 18.
But look at the video there. The man who also faced tragedy, has written and produced and created joyful things. He still has that smile.
I don’t know William Joyce, but I wish I did. He epitomizes a sort of drive and imagination and – in a word I’ve been using much more lately – joy. The images he creates are fantastical. The video there has no audio but an explosion but I dare you not to laugh at it. In two years since he lost his daughter he’s completed major parts of his series inspired by her.
Believe me, I know how easy it would be to sink into despair and live in the past. I felt its tug and allowed the darkness to envelop me and it’s not an easy thing to forego.
This is a lesson for everyone. It’s easy to fall into despair; it’s hard to embrace joy.
Do you complain a lot? Do you see the wrong and not the right or see the worst and not the best? I know it’s easier to fall into despair than to pull yourself out of it; but think about it. Think about me, about William Joyce. We both suffered different, unthinkable losses. But even today we can find a primal joy bomb.
What about you? What is your primal joy bomb or do you have several in your life keeping you from staying in the past?
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