I experienced pure joy not long ago. I was in Baltimore with both my girls and my beautiful grandson. We went to the children’s museum. We went to the train museum. We went for ice cream. We walked around the city. We ate a lot. We laughed a lot. It was pure joy.
Let me back up a little bit to tell you why that’s so important to me. You know how you watch a tv show, or a friend says something, or maybe you read something, and you have that thing that stays with you for whatever reason? Well, this was one of those times. I was watching Oprah a few years ago, and she was talking about how she had really been struggling, and how she had been very unhappy. She had just produced Beloved, which didn’t do well, and I don’t remember what all was going on, but someone important in her life had asked her when the last time was that she had experienced pure joy. And she couldn’t remember. Oprah could not remember experiencing pure joy. For some reason, that hit me, and I thought it was so terribly sad.
So I thought about my own life, and right away, I was able to remember a time when I had experienced pure joy. It was in New York City with our high school drama club. Leah and I were able to tag along with Lindsay on that trip. The whole week was incredible, but at the risk of sounding like a travelogue, I will just say my dream had always been to see a Broadway musical. And there I was, on Broadway, watching Hairspray, with both girls. The dream was just to see a musical. I never expected the moment would include a Tony-winning hit show with both girls! I remember sitting in the theater so caught up in the incredible performances and then realizing how amazing it was that both girls were there with me. That was the moment. It was pure joy.
I can sit here now and think of other moments. One involved my friends, Jan and Tonya, whom I’ve mentioned before. Of course, we were on a beach. We were trying to take a selfie (before they were called selfies) in the sunset, and let’s just say it wasn’t going well. We couldn’t get the camera focused right, we couldn’t all get in the picture just right, and then one of us (possibly me) kicked over someone else’s drink, and I know it doesn’t sound funny in the re-telling, but the point of this really bad story is we started laughing, and we couldn’t stop laughing. We were laughing so hard we were holding each other up, and then we were crying, because we were so happy to be together again, and we just hugged and laughed and cried, and yes, it was pure joy. We realized not long after that we were also the entertainment for a lot of the people sitting around us. My point, though, is it was pure joy.
I remember watching Oprah that day and really feeling for her. I thought, “She’s Oprah, and she couldn't remember feeling pure joy?” How sad was that? And I remember thinking I don’t ever want my life to get to that point, and I decided that day that I wouldn’t let my life get to that point.
So back to pure joy. Here’s the interesting thing. All of my moments involve people. Not things. Just people. All the things that bring me joy are not things at all. They’re moments with the people who matter to me.
At one point on my recent Baltimore weekend, I woke up during the night. I looked across the room, and in the shadows, I saw the people who matter the most to me, all together under the same roof, sleeping peacefully. And I smiled with gratitude, and I said a little thank you before I closed my eyes again. Pure joy.