Surprised by Joy
“Be surprised by joy. Be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of the barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.” – Henri Nouwen
It’s a strange idea in the current state we’re in. I get it. It’s significantly easier to be surprised by despair, disappointment, frustration, and the constant need to adjust right now. I have found myself at moments overwhelmed by the state of surprise in all of these feelings. Here’s some real phrases that came out of my mouth in the last 24 hours that exemplify those types of surprises in my life right now.
In reference to my mom, while talking to my sisters virtually: “She went WHERE? To get WHAT!? That is NOT ESSENTIAL.”
In reference to my husband’s birthday, which we celebrated alone, to the despair to my extroverted heart, “It’s not that I didn’t know we wouldn’t see anyone, it’s that I’m all the sudden overwhelmed with how disappointed I am that we can’t.”
And, to every parent out there with a toddler, the inevitable: “You can’t sit on my face right now. Mommy is in a meeting.”
We are settling into a month’s long shelter-at-home order here in North Carolina, and we are one week in. About two weeks ago, I noticed the number of people mentioning how family had become their new center, rather than work. It happened quickly, as people realized the number of physical hours we normally spend with our immediate family increased drastically from our regular span. As more educators fluctuate between spring break and beginning teaching online, we feel a new strain that wasn’t there before, as we sense the tension in being physically housed in the same space as our loved ones without the freedom to spend time with them as we typically have when we are together in this space. Our bodies are place-conscious; they know how we normally act in certain spaces and places. When those places change, our bodies and minds struggle with that tension – the tension between place, emotion, and space.
The same is true for our virtual spaces, such as the #MTBoS community or here within the GMD. Our virtual space is place-conscious; it reflects back to us a certain way of being, the way we normally associate with one another, the typical topics we share. As the current crisis has required, the virtual space has required our minds, thoughts, and tweets to adjust, and there is a tension between what we once were and where we currently are.
For me, that is why this week, I have been overwhelmingly surprised by joy #onhere. There is no shortness of joy in the midst of change in the #MTBoS, but I have been surprised at where I have found it recently.
Sometimes it’s in the seemingly simple of what once was.
Like when @RPhillipsMath shared about her kids doing math at home:
Or when @ChezBoogie was living a real math problem and got mad hype.
Sometimes, I find it in beautiful things.
Like in @Fawnpnguyen’s garden, and the smell of jasmine.
Or in @Samira_Mian’s video of #islamicgeometry, where I never knew what she would do next.
Sometimes, I find it through what we share together.
Like @HthrLynnJ’s wildscaped backyard
And in EVERY SINGLE #MathArtChallenge posted by @anniek_p and submitted by others
But especially listening to the joy in the video posted by @DavidKButlerUoA of his submission of the Hitomezashi Stitching.
Sometimes, I find it in humor.
Like in @SamPerrinNTNU’s perfect dad-tweet to the strange y-axis post going around.
Or every tweet @Howie_Hua has posted lately, but for sure this one that went viral.
And sometimes, I find joy in the way the world has found math humanizing this week.
Like @mathillustrated finding the wage gap being taught in a text book.
Or when @TinaCardone appreciated her energy company’s critical use of data in *not* posting this month’s energy savings in comparison to last year.
Each one of these posts surprised me with joy. I found myself grinning from ear to ear, feeling my heart swell, and bringing me hope. For even in a time when despair, disappointment, and frustration are easy to find, there is still joy to be found.
I hope you find yourself pleasantly surprised by joy this week wherever you are, but especially #onhere.
Flattening the Curve but not my waistline (GO SNACKS!),