Time for another shot in the arm, a shot of optimism. We have been battling Covid and Delta and getting our vaccinations, wearing our masks, and doing all we can to avert further spread of this deadly pandemic. Every so often I write something to lift your spirits, my readers and Anonymous Angels, and I want to do that today.
Before you read any further, ask yourself a simple question: What gives me joy? Maybe it’s a soft kiss from a grandchild—or a sloppy one! Maybe it’s
an unexpected reconciliation with someone, or the news that you’re cancer-free. Maybe it’s a professional success or a boost in your salary. Maybe it’s the sudden gift of being in the right place to see a glorious sunrise or to observe a very special person appear before you, arms outstretched, heart beating with love. What gives you joy? Why not make a list of what gives you joy? Take an inventory. What makes your heart skip and your gut shake with visceral happiness? Whatever it is, you can be sure it comes from God.
Organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, says that true joy, however, takes place with others; it’s a collective experience. “Peak happiness lies mostly in collective activity,” he opined in a recent New York Times essay. Referring to pioneering sociologist, Emile Durkheim, Grant writes, “We find our greatest bliss in moments of collective effervescence.” In other words, we need someone or several people to share in a happy moment. Before the pandemic, we enjoyed collective effervescence on average three times a week when we gathered for choir or sports or coffee in cafes or yoga, etc. But the lockdown dissipated much of this ‘good contagion’ as Grant calls it. He points out that people laugh five times as often when they’re with others as alone. And, interestingly, he says that people who are introverts suffer more depression than extroverts during lockdowns. The extroverts will seek diversions, whereas introverts tend to allow the negatives of a lockdown to deepen their loneliness.
Last June, my community invited all our Sisters from across the country to come to the Motherhouse for a weekend when the lockdown was lifted. In all my years of anniversary and vow celebrations, or the many days when we acknowledged each other’s achievements, this weekend of welcoming and hugging, and singing and playing was on top of my list of joyful experiences, right up there with the day we merged two communities into one. We had no meetings to attend. We celebrated the deaths of the 22 Sisters who died during lockdown. We enjoyed renewing our friendships, sharing our meals and ringing in the evenings with singing and karaoke and dancing. It was a joie de vivre experience like no other. We threw our concerns to the Holy Spirit as if we had no cares but to hold on to each other while grabbing life preservers in this tumultuous sea and laughing all the while. This was the perfect experience of ‘collective effervescence.’ And everyone of us knew it took everyone of us to achieve.
Adam Grant concludes his essay saying we should be more concerned with collective effervescence than with personal euphoria. I will quote his powerful ending in full. “The Declaration of Independence promised Americans unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we want that pursuit to bring us bliss, we may need to create a Declaration of Interdependence. You can feel depressed and anxious alone, but it’s rare to laugh alone or love alone. Joy shared is joy sustained.”
I’m wondering if you could join me in doing two things this week. First, make a list of what gives you joy. And, if you feel you should, please share it with us, the readers of this blog. Second, write down some activities you can do to create ‘collective effervescence’ among others.
Can you please share with our other readers what makes you joyful? You might stir some embers in someone else’s heart. I really look forward to this.
What gives me joy? During the pandemic cut off from many relationships, I found joy by telephoning friends to check in regularly. When the phone would ring and it was not the Red Cross asking for blood donations or some politician asking for funds, and it was a friend saying, “how are you?” I felt connected. I tried to do the same with others.
Our son in Montreal and I used to cook together on Zoom. We would select a recipe and then invite other family members to share the fun of learning a recipe together. We would eat separately then text each other a “review” of the dish!
Walking outdoors, breathing, and studying our shoreline, trees shrubs, and flowers with a friend felt like getting a hypodermic of joy. When we met other walkers or bikers with dogs we would stop to share a thought. Wind and the fatigue of exertion after a long walk up the hills was a welcome conclusion to the outing. Joy for me was connecting……
Sandra Y. Rueb
These things give me joy: Water does…whether it’s pouring down upon me in the shower or I’m sitting beside it on a park bench or I’m drinking a glass of it on a hot, hot day. Then untamed things give me joy: the local male cardinal singing his heart out on top of the evergreen tree or the clouds floating by above me or a good friend surprising me me with her small personal revelation. And words do too–their power, mystery, beauty, history. And finally, your blog gives me joy every Monday, Mary Ann!!! Thank you! Melannie
Collective effervescence – I am totally enthralled with this two word phrase. I shall begin to incorporate it into my daily life. For me, joy is knowing my family is doing well, safe and healthy. Selfish joy – is having something chocolate to eat or having a bowl of ice cream. Thank you Sr. Mary Ann Flannery for introducing me to this lovely phrase. I so look forward to your weekly blog.
God Bless You always.
Your friend, Betty H.
Dear Mary Ann,
This is not a report on the assignment you gave us to do (which I hope to do this week), But I can’t wait till I have the time to do that! I want to tell you NOW how I thoroughly enjoyed your description of our congregational gathering in June! It was a delightful video with sound and music that made my heart smile and sing and laugh! You captured the whole experience so well, Mary Ann! Thank you for that gift!👌
Sent from my iPad
Joy for me is so many things. It is what makes me, me!
Talking and laughing with friends. Playing with my grandchildren. Just grandchildren in general.
Dogs and cats. Watching birds at the feeders, I call it bird Tv. Playing golf with my brothers then reliving some of the crazy fun things we did when we were kids. All of us so thankful we have each other.
A beautiful sunrise, appreciating God as an artist. Walking and talking to the Holy Spirit,and thankful for his gifts everyday. And also the ability to walk.
My Meetings with Sr. Mary Ann, yes Sister you are a big part of my joyfulness!
Reading your blog.
My husband Ray he’s my fix-it man hero and my best friend.
Sandra, Melanie, Betty, Nancy, Fran, thank you. You each personify joy for me. And you seem to find joy in life and all its facets, its ups and downs, its gifts and challenges. Yes, we need some ‘collective effervescence’ these days. I’m so happy you all caught the ‘contagion’. You are blessings in my life. MAF
I agree with the others who say that your blog is one of the gifts of joy that I experience each week, and my FaceTime calls with my sister every other day or so, as well as time spent with the grandkids and great nephews and niece (virtual as well as in person).
Getting to perform for the folk at Light of Hearts villa and you was a big gift last month. Time with my son and sister and brother is always good as well. Time on retreat in Philly was a blessing too. Thank you for this assignment – I don’t always remember to be thankful! Take care, Margaret