When Joie de Vivre is not enough

Joie de Vivre
1. a delight in being alive; keen, carefree enjoyment of living.

* “can be a conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do…And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauung.  Robert’s Dictionnaire says joie is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one’s whole being.”

I’ve had a funny few days.

Having finally truly discovered my joy of being, in the (almost) three years in Barcelona, I will often hear myself say to others, “I’m still in my honeymoon period”.  This being accompanied by much animated arm waving, enthusiasm and exhuberance.  I might have even become one of the very people that used to irritate the sh*t out of me. The perpetually happy and optimistic.  In an early Skype with my dad, I said, “I think I’m content.”  Not being familiar with positive emotion, I still wasn’t sure.

Telling all who will lend an ear, how happy I am to simply be alive on this beautiful planet, how touched I am by the very simple things and how lucky I feel to have such wonderful friends, how when I leave the house to go to work, I sometimes still can’t believe that I live here, you may think, “whatever, thousands/millions do it, so what?”

It’s a personal triumph.  Small as it may be to you; it isn’t to me.

It comes with some sense of pride for the changes I’ve made.  At forty, relocating and starting again, learning a language, making a new life.  And capitalising on this new found confidence, (that has come with the knowledge that I can get by and get on by myself), and fully embracing my enthusiasm for life, I have accepted invitations to travel around Europe a little this year, to meet up with friends-to explore new places, and share experiences.  And sometimes just to sit in the company of, and listen to these people speak about their own experiences, is a pleasure and a gift in itself.  I don’t expect more than the pleasure of their company; because it is being with them that gives me that pleasure.  And to have younger friends who I look at and think, “Shit!  I wish I was as savvy as you when I was your age.” and take inspiration from that too….. I’m very lucky.

And so, a fairly inocuous conversation in France, with a throw-away comment, hit me like a sledgehammer to the side of the head and rocked me harder than I ever could have imagined.

So hard in fact, that I’ve spent the best part of the last three days, (drinking, crying, sleeping and watching Robin Williams on loop – too tragic) and wondering if it’s enough to just be in love with life.  What do I contribute to the world (to friendships), what’s my net worth?  So far, my findings have uncovered; small change and pocket fluff.  Not so much.

Maybe mistakenly (I don’t know), I have derived a great deal of pleasure from those situations that I’ve found myself in over the last couple of years in particular, (but throughout my lifetime in fact), where I’ve met new people, from all walks of life.  It’s interesting to me on every level –   They could be successful sculptors from Uruguay or have just missed the tourist bus and need directions.  And, I love that I can chat to all of those people, whoever they are, and sometimes, make those people laugh.  In February, the Hot Frenchie said to me, “You’re funny.” and I said, “That’s the highest compliment you could give me.”  Natch.

L'EstanquetI could see this very clearly most recently when I was sitting in a little bar in Marciac, while my friends were busy doing musiciany things.  I was ‘chatting’ with the owner and his son, wine producers, enjoying the music they were playing.  They spoke no English or Spanish, and I speak tourist French, and we communicated.  For almost two hours.  While I sat and tried to translate a piece of promotional literature, to practise my French, and they busied themselves with barrels and crates and glasses.  And I made them laugh.  And that made me happier than you can imagine.  And as I left the bar, there were hugs and photos and I felt good.  And that night, after the concert, I shared some time with my friend, and we laughed uncontrollably about the silliest things, so much so that my stomach was in pain the next day.  I loved that shared time and seeing him laugh that hard.  It made me happy and I felt good.

So answer me this:  if the pleasure I derive from the company of my friends is to be in their presence, hear their stories, absorb their experience and see them laugh, and in return, if what my friendship offers you is breathing space to be yourself, to laugh freely, offer a little irreverence, to allow you to let go of the trappings of your everyday life; switch off momentarily, be a bit silly, forget the mundanity of routine or ridiculous pressure, maybe even tell a good story to get a laugh: is that such a bad thing?  Underneath the laughs, know that I care and I’m supportive.

If my sole purpose on this planet, is to put a little smile on the faces of those I meet, or bring a little ray of sunshine along with me, be free and generous with my irreverence and ‘joie de vivre’, then so be it; I’m going to have to make my peace with that.

* Source: Wikipedia


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