Joyful - Ingrid Fetell Lee

posted (or finished) May 25, 2022 in blog
with tags books

When I’m a bit bored, maybe a bit down, and I don’t want to do any of my actual projects or read anything in my actual to-read pile, I have a browse of my local e-library. I pick something with an interesting name, or a pretty cover, and just give it a go. Because I’m not in any way invested in it (as opposed to something that’s been on my to-read list for five years) I know that I can say ‘oh wow no this is not for me’ and stop reading. It’s a good way to defeat the sense of obligation that comes with something I’ve paid cash for, and just relax into a read.

As such I don’t expect much, so it’s especially sweet when I find something that I like; let alone something I absolutely love and may actually have changed my life, like this book.

“Joyful” is a semi-scientific exploration of joy. Think about Konmari method and its exhortations to remove things from your life that do not spark joy. This is its perfect counterpart; how to welcome things that spark joy. The author goes through several aspects of joy (such as energy, abundance, play) and makes some suggestions on things to do to incorporate them into your home and life, to increase your general sense of joyfulness.

I was skeptical, but game. I started by surrounding myself with yellow things (energy); replacing a dingy old dressing gown by making one in cheery yellow, buying matching towels, starting on my bee embroidery. I’ve been working on a huge yellow throw for my bed, too; wonderful on its own but when the sun shines in on it, it lights up the whole flat with a glorious golden glow.

I made some pom-poms, because they’re fun (play). And then I was in my kitchen, looking at a wire chicken-shaped egg-basket and I thought you know what I could do, seeing as I never use it for actual eggs? I could fill that with egg-coloured pom-poms. So I did, and now I giggle every time I go into the kitchen. How’s that for joy?

I regularly put a kitten-cam livestream on my TV to watch them play. I make a point to change my running route slightly so that I always finish by walking down one particular road, specifically on the off-chance I’ll encounter a particularly magnificent loaf of a cat and get some scritches in.

I brought nature into my home (abundance). I already have a fair number of houseplants; I’m even quite good at keeping them alive now. But I built on that; I made a little green nook beside my desk to make sure I always have greenery in my field of vision. Similarly, I rearranged my furniture so I can always see the sky (freedom).

Then I read the chapter on harmony; she speaks about collecting similar-coloured items together, so I gathered a few blue things together on my mantlepiece and that felt quite nice. Then she recommended organising books by colour. I know, I know; I worked in a library once, I know classification systems. At the same time, after several housemoves in several years I had gotten to the point of just slapping books on the shelf to get them out of boxes, thinking ‘oh I’ll organise them properly later’ but never getting round to it. So I figured this was better than nothing. And it is, in fact, quite pleasing.

But the biggest and best thing it did is get me making again. I’d sort of drifted away from it, burned by some projects that didn’t quite turn out right, spending my evenings wholly absorbed by computer games, or lying on the sofa listlessly scrolling through social media until it was time for bed… then lying there listlessly scrolling through social media until I fell into a fitful sleep.

Then this book came along and made me think about what truly sparks ✨joy✨. And that’s making things. I am never happier than when I’m making things. Sure, sometimes they go wrong and make me rage against the (sewing) machine but I get over it, and at the end of it I’ve made something and probably learned something from the experience as well. And at its best, I’m sitting in my room, working for ten hours straight on my new project, giggling to myself because I’m having so much fun.

And that, my friends, is true joy.