Scrawled across the foggy hotel mirror, those words have altered the journey of my life. Forever.
I wrote them as inspiration to myself and my two roommates on the morning of my first barbershop chorus competition.
Singing has always been part of who I am, but it was normally reserved for times when I was alone. Gardening, hitchhiking back in the 70s, riding my motorcycles, driving my RV across country, standing in the shower, the words and notes were always there, but I didn’t feel comfortable or safe sharing that side of myself. Until now.
Now, I join an amazing group of women each week to learn, explore, and rejoice in the magic that can happen when people sing together. Texting, video chatting, even face to face conversations don’t allow for the same level of intimacy we share when we sing together, striving for those harmonics that make barbershop music ring.
In writing those words on the mirror, I was hoping to lift myself and a couple of my riser mates to a place where each of us felt safe enough to totally immerse ourselves in the music, singing our hearts out, and carrying the audience along for the ride. We won, so enough of us felt that safety and freedom and joy.
But it wasn’t the winning that was so profound. Standing side-by-side with nearly 60 women of all ages, beliefs, and backgrounds, we were able to bring our voices together to create something amazing. It was something that the audience could feel, they came with us through the experience. It was powerful. And it was beautiful.
The next morning, after a shower, some of the words were still visible. The glass declared, “Make your joy!” And that phrase ran through my mind again and again. Make your joy. Make your joy. Make your joy.
To make something implies an active decision. It’s not the same thing as finding or identifying the things that make you happy. This is far more powerful. It is on purpose. The things that create joy are too personal and they cannot be experienced as a spectator. When you feel joyful, it is part of you and you are part of it. It is to rejoice in what is. It’s not a wish or a hope or a dream. To feel joyful is to be fully in the moment and to experience delight within that moment.
A few years ago, a woman approached me at Burning Man, extending a lovely ceramic bowl filled with slips of paper.
“Would you like a blessing?” She asked. I said yes and took a slip of paper.
Joy is your birthright.
Simple words. A simple concept. And one that brought tears to my eyes because, all too often, we neglect that birthright. We forget to hold that bright light as we polish our worry stones, harbor our resentments, and complain about the world’s injustices.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if each of use were to remind ourselves to look for that sense of joyfulness more often, we just might find it.