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Christen A. Johnson is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
I could write a very, very long list of all the sucky, heartbreaking, discouraging things that have happened this year, including the recent news of the Breonna Taylor case.
But today, I’m choosing joy. If it’s one thing I know about Black people, it’s that we have unintentionally mastered the craft of holding both joy and pain at the same time. We’ve had to, almost as a survival tactic. If you held only the grief or the trauma, you’d just be a sad shell of a person.
But we find the glimmers among the gloom, and joy in the midst of perpetual heartache in order to keep moving forward.
So here’s a non-exhaustive list of a handful of mundane moments, people and things that have made me happy the last six months:
1. Finally being grown enough to watch — and understand — “Girlfriends” on Netflix.
2. Group chats with my own girlfriends. There’s also four of us, albeit in three different time zones. We named the chat after the TV show’s theme song. I’m the Maya of the group, according to a completely unquestionable Buzzfeed quiz.
3. Anything Tabitha Brown does, says, cooks or wears. And that’s my business.
4. A little Black girl in Arkansas named Jacie who updates her 187,000-plus Instagram followers on her daily life, and ladens each clip with the thickest Southern “Baybeh,” and closes most videos with, “Period. And I mean that!”
5. Surprise tickets to a virtual Usher concert.
6. Eating a personal quiche from a neighborhood bakery and reading magazines on Saturday mornings in a park while my husband shoots hoops nearby.
7. Megan Thee Stallion being a Time magazine influential person of the year. Not only does she deserve it, but did you see that cover? The dress! The leg! The baby hairs!
8. “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.
9. Jada Pinkett Smith making “entanglement” a part of the cultural lexicon. And singer August Alsina making a song out of it.
10. Outdoor movies at the local outdoor theater, my favorite being the “Mean Girls” and “Clueless” double-feature.
11. Fall decor and caramel apple scented candles.
12. A Labor Day weekend visit from my mom and sister full of apple and pear picking, volleyball without a net, movie nights and homemade buttermilk biscuits.
13. Quick, socially distanced chats with the Whole Foods heroes who have come to know me by name.
14. My beautician giving me the most pristine two-strand twists that have withstood the test of time.
15. Verzuz battles started by music producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz.
16. Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie, my current comfort soul food of choice. Earlier in the pandemic, it was mac and cheese.
17. Eating my Patti pie during the Verzuz battle between her and Gladys Knight. And Patti LaBelle saying something along the lines of, “Don’t worry about losing weight; we’re in a pandemic.” Amen.
18. Watching a grown man giddily play with his new drone in a local park. His joy brought me joy. The woman who was with him wanting absolutely nothing to do with it brought me laughter.
19. Taking up tennis. I am definitely no Serena Williams, but you sure can’t tell me I’m not, especially when I slide on my all-white tennis outfit. Look good, feel good, play alright.
I have a tendency to focus on what needs to be better, what isn’t quite right, what’s missing. It’s textbook perfectionism. Because of that, sometimes I don’t remember, or even recognize, what actually is sparking happiness.
When critiques abound, I’m gently reminded of the bright spots that are being excluded. This perspective shift helps me center in on the good. And dwelling in that mental space — as opposed to one of anxiety, fear and disappointment — produces more memories of joy.
I hope I was able to help do the same for you.