facets of joy



“Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.” ~ Paul Hawken

“Contrary to what we usually believe… the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

This week, we focused our attention on joy. Our writers drew from memory and poetry to discuss aspects of joy – what brings us joy and what diminishes joy. We identified the joyful moments in our lives as important marker points. This means that our joy is tied, inevitably, to identity. What makes us joy is linked to who we are. And learning who we are helps us feel guided toward living authentic lives. Joy is really difficult to achieve in the prison. Because of that, I’m going to hurry on to our writers’ words this week and let them speak for themselves.

Below, you’ll read our writers’ accounts of their joy and, by extension, accounts of themselves.

Joy Is

Being rocked by your mom starts joy.
Being a mom is also joy,
Playing with friends, at home or in school,
being with your pets, feeling their soft ears,
going on vacation, buying souvenirs,
eating with family, ending with dessert,
learning to drive, getting to take the car out,
sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in,
walking on the boardwalk watching the guys go by,
going on a date with butterflies inside,
enjoying wine, being asked to dance,
buying a new outfit, and 2 pairs of shoes,
cooking for a holiday, enjoying tradition
or being invited for a holiday at someone else’s house.
Food brings joy, ice cream, chocolate, Chinese food. Continue reading

seen and heard

HEAR ME, SEE ME book authors insideLast week, we brought HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write to CRCF, enough for each woman currently inside who has ever written with us and chose to receive one.

About 17 writers streamed to our weekly meeting room clamoring for this long-awaited moment. Another 15 joined the line and left, book clutched to chest, no doubt to peruse the pages after laundry, kitchen or hall cleaning duties were done. A dozen women elected to stay with us for an impromptu reading.

Once again I was struck by the power of our process. Since we started the program four years back, we have sought to bring the voices of silenced women from inside themselves, and the prison, out to the world. We do this with regular blog posts, quarterly anthologies and semi-annual readings. We did this with the book and its launch.

And weekly, we do this in a modest circle in a windowless room through a safe, mirroring community that helps each of us see ourselves, hear ourselves and one another into awareness and speech.

We often refer to the ‘arc of experience’ a woman follows in her time inside, one we see intimately within the writing circle.  During last week’s book celebration inside, I saw that arc manifest in the responses of three different women. Continue reading

remember the laughter

[The following ‘found poem’ is constructed from ‘read-back’ lines from last week’s writers on the theme of ‘laughter.’ Sometimes the resulting poem reflects the mood and theme of the week; sometimes it turns things on their head. The only ‘rule’ is that lines remain unchanged except for an occasional tweaking of verb tense. The resulting poem is a kind of community creation, each woman’s words woven into a new whole.]

Ice islands
buried deep in the walls
holding these women from the sun
stagnates laughter that should thrive;

in the sick twisted dark
beauty and truth collide
cast away like skipped stones.
Angry screams in cement walls

open up a pathway
to daylight where laughter lives,
spills from our lungs
springs from our eyes;

a free place in our soul
giggles and squeals
tossed into the waves,
a world of enthusiasm and opportunity. Continue reading