Creating More Joy With a Joy List


Last week, in the middle of a long work day, I stumbled upon this article by my favorite Tarot lady Kelly-Ann Maddox. In it, Maddox affirms the pursuit of joy for its own sake. Just because we're adults, pursuing goals and careers and other such matters, does not mean we should forget that we can simply enjoy ourselves:

"I do not want adulthood to tell you or me that we cannot indulge in an afternoon of potato painting. That we cannot spend two solid hours in a bubble bath. That we can’t lie on our backs watching the clouds. That we can’t create a ‘moodboard’ to describe the month of May. That we can’t swim so hard across the pool that we think we’ll die trying to outdo our own physical limitation. That we can’t listen to an old album on vinyl in the dark. That we can’t tell someone a secret and expect them to keep it. That we can’t inhale the pages of a fifty year old book written in a language we cannot read but which we love, almost as if by accident, because we’re as human as its author.”


Let me tell you, this was exactly what I needed to read. Because—I think I'd forgotten. When I was a kid, I'd do things just cause I wanted to. I used to spend hours sitting on my bed listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks and coloring. There was no purpose. There was no goal. It just made me happy.

But when we start to grow up, and we start to make goals and lists and identify all these things we want to improve about ourselves, we tend to stop doing things just because they bring us joy. We try to be "productive" all the time, or always "better" ourselves. I'm sure I'm not the only girl who used to make constant lists of things to improve about myself. Even now, the things I do in my free time usually have the goal of being "productive" in some way.

And of course there's nothing wrong with having long-term goals and projects. On the contrary, these can be fulfilling and stimulating. But when this way of thinking so overtakes us that we can't do something "unproductive" without feeling guilty, it becomes a little ridiculous. We're human, aren't we? Are we here on earth to have well-rounded human experiences, including joy and silliness and wildness, or are we here to be productive 24/7?

When I am on my deathbed, am I going to look back and remember that I checked off my entire to-do list one day when I was twenty-three? Or am I going to look back and think about the crazy joy I experienced, the depth of being alive, the nights I laid out and watched the stars, the days I shirked my work just a little to spend more time with a beloved friend and giggle 'til we couldn't breathe? I want that kind of life.

So, Kelly-Ann's article inspired me to make my own Joy List. An affirmation of the things I love to do, the things that maybe don't bring in any money or aren't "productive" but that make me head-over-heels alive and happy. The things that feed my soul. The things that make my life feel expansive and new and full. The things that remind me that I'm a living human and not a to-do list.

The truth is, too often girls are taught that we are constant self-improvement projects. We're told we should be constantly "working on ourselves": our bodies, our minds, our resumes, our wardrobes, whatever. I am rebelling against this. We are not machines. We are humans, whole and imperfect and capable of feeling massive joy. Take some time and make your own joy list! Writing the list alone will make you smile. And next time you're bogged down in your to-do list, switch to this list! Do something just for the joy. You don't need permission.  You are your own permission.

A few things from my own Joy List:

-Lightning incense and listening to Joni Mitchell

-Going outside in a rainstorm

-Dancing around my kitchen by myself

-G-chatting with Kate about our crazy future business plans (hello, cat bagel cafe)

-Reading my Tarot cards and journaling about it

-Being barefoot in the sun

You are here on this planet for a brief amount of time. Don't forget to allow yourself moments of pure, unabashed, deliciously unproductive joy.

Lily Myers is a writer living in Seattle, WA. She writes about feminism and self-love at her blog The Shapes We Make. Her debut novel, This Impossible Light, is due out now from Philomel.