I became a joy addict somewhere from being named after a 1980 Cliff Richard single to the time my father pretended to have a wooden leg, walking down the high street behind me, shouting ‘but Carrie, it hurts!?’
I learnt from an early stage that I couldn’t take myself too seriously. Like papa, like daughter, we became a duo of delectation, finding the comedy in any observational opportunity.
Whether he was pretending to be a Jamaican railway servicemen when the phone rang, or me dressing up as Ophelia, hitting myself with a bunch of garden herbs, swimming about in a pond pretending to reenact that scene from Hamlet, my mother would usually find us holding onto a wall for stability as we struggled to find air. Mum would be nearby ready to slip my father his inhaler, holding off an asthma attack. Dad was a hard worker and despite the responsibility and pressure on his level of the game, the one thing he did manage to do was keep up the humour, no matter how heavy the cloud.
When life threw me curve balls – alcoholic relatives, redundancy, tragedy, a disordered eating habit or Jedward – I didn’t see just how influential my perspective and my decision on that perspective was. Perspective and ownership of how we react to things, is the game changer of all life events.
Some things I had attracted, some things had been experiences I didn’t like. Either way, I was responsible for my reaction, I just didn’t know it back then; the victim mentality played an interesting part for some of that time, thinking I was powerless in my emotional management.
Cut to ten years later, disembarking on that pain, wounds are a matter of the past (I got my refund for the victim mentality show around 2008), lessons are the page references of my present and tomorrow stages the joke pranks I’ve been dreaming up today towards those I love.
When we take away the comparison of others, when we make ourselves unoffendable to people’s behaviours, when we can be honest with others in a gentle manner (if they get defensive – let them get on with it and know you had to be honest), when we can build around us a culture of honour, accountability and truth, there’s not much else to do other than work your ass off to bring joy to yourself and others.
Joy isn’t a wall to hide behind in tough seasons. It is the necessity for the breath of life when circumstances are trying to suffocate you. Don’t sit in the pub moaning about your woes, get up and fight again for the freedom of a new perspective. Gain a lesson, rather than a hurt. Run from confronting problems and you’ll sprint into another. Face it head on and you’ll leap frog over the same issue again, possibly this time to a merry tune.
It’s the ultimate stress-ball. There have been days working in advertising where the negotiation has got tense, managing miscommunication left, right and off-centre, wondering how the day will resolve. I remember one day pounding up the fifth flights of stairs walking into an edit suite, where an editor, a producer and director had pensively planned for my arrival – with chairs upturned, waste paper sprawled from it’s bin, phones off the hook – all of them lying on the floor with their tongues out, playing dead. I burst into laughter and crease up against a wall, as do the peers, who tell me they’ve been playing dead for 10 minutes and wondered if I was ever going to arrive.
It’s joy that brings light to over-analysis. It’s joy that breaks the ice, fixes a missed note, and keeps the right hand side of the brain creative. It’s joy that keeps brave communication from back firing or getting hurtful. It’s joy that brings humility to the ego, self-deprecation to the defensive and hope to the lost.
Last Tuesday night, I found myself enjoying the night life once more of London. Nothing beats the feeling of placing yourself in the red velvet seat of an old historic theatre. I was invited to watch Luke Jermay – highly recommended by Derren Brown and Dynamo, he’s labelled as ‘the man who can read your mind’.
You’re not going to get a review, you’re going to get my aberrant thoughts. It wasn’t the magic that got me thinking, it was the philosophy. Somewhere between him telling us the colour of a girl’s underwear on row D and the hidden childhood secret of a man running naked through the snow on row M, he talked about the importance of keeping an open mind amongst what we see as reality, following this was a Charles Bukowski poem.
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
Talking to Luke Jermay after the show, we spoke of many different concepts of philosophy. Tattoo’d up to the ear lobe, I noticed one which read ‘Love will tear us apart’.
Not so I thought. Love however, can tear fear apart.
Laughter is a translation of love, it flicks the bird to fear, stamps on its’ destructive intentions and keeps prescriptive medicine at bay. Like a doorman keeping out the wrong clientele, joy explains to fear in a low tone voice – ‘your name’s not down – you’re not coming in’.