I'm in love with how your soul's a mix of chaos and art, and how you never try to keep them apart

Outnumbered - Dermot Kennedy

I live by a theory that life is circular in that ‘for every high, there is a low’ and vice versa. When I am having a peak experience or feeling totally alive and connected — I tell myself to enjoy it and truly savour the moment because it will end, it’s just how it works. The universe is constantly balancing things out and aiming for equanimity.

In the same way, when I am in a low mood and all my highs are forgotten or feel far away, I remind myself that an upswing is coming and I will be back on my feet again.

I was just in a valley myself recently and seemed to have forgotten my own advice.

A friend reached out and asked me: what is bringing you the most joy at the moment?

I was struck by the simplicity of the question.

Joy felt quite far away that day. And so I started to really think about it.

Being happy is not the same as a feeling of joy. Happiness often comes from an outside situation whereas joy comes from someplace inside of you. On closer inquiry, I found the quality of joy to be a more soul-stirring and pure presence. Joy is unforced and comes about in a moment of noticing or being swept away by a moment.

Once I started to dig deeper, it got addictive rather quickly.

Happy is music, joy is when the right song comes on shuffle.

Happy is the flower you picked yesterday, joy is seeing it bloom today.

Happy is a funny joke, joy is a full body belly laughter bringing you to your knees.

Happy is hiking to the top of a mountain, joy is not being able to explain the view.

Happy is a small child, joy is the small child seeing you fall over.

Happy is watching a cat sleep, joy is the cat sleeping on you.

Happy is a wedding, joy is a dancefloor with everyone you know.

Happy is a cinnamon scroll, joy is getting to the gooey centre.

Happy is riding your bike, joy is going downhill with your feet off the pedals like when you were a kid.

Happy is a good book, joy is being in a time warp reading a great book.

Happy is a movie you love, joy is the scene that never lets you down.

Happy is sex, joy is realising the sun is coming up and you’ve been talking all night.

Happy is a cup of tea, joy is the first mouthful giving your whole body a warm flush feeling.

Happy is singing your favourite karaoke song, joy is all your friends joining in.

I think you get the idea.

Joy is shared, but joy is also private. What works for you might not work for me.

I think of joy as those moments we can call upon on dark days. One example from my own life is when I was in Tuscany for my thirtieth birthday with ten of my closest family and friends staying at a villa right out Under The Tuscan Sun. I’ll never forget our arrival when we drove up the gravel road lined with one hundred cypress trees at dusk to the house lit up by the most incredible golden evening light with views of the hilltop town surrounding us. It five days of wine from our own vineyard, barefoot dancing, gnocchi rolling, reading in the hammock, Aperol Spritz o’clock, and ALL THE FOOD. I mean, anyone could be happy here. In all this though, the moment of pure joy was when we all started spontaneously singing Disney songs around the pool, whether we knew the words or not.

Joy is unscripted goodness. Joy came from being all together with nowhere else to be or no phone to look at. Joy reminds us, as the poet David Whyte beautifully says, that ‘I was here and you were here and together we made a world.’

Some of the greatest joys in my life have also happened alone. But I also know the other side of the coin is loneliness, and it’s hard and sucks and can steal your joy. I think cultivating aloneness — or an inner friendship — is a necessary skill for everyone because you’ll always have you to witness your own life and your own joy (especially now, before all the street parties begin).

When I was leaving for my big solo trip last year, a good friend sent me a poem by Kim Addonizio that I come back to often:

To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall

If you ever woke in your dress at 4am ever
closed your legs to a man you loved opened
them for one you didn’t moved against
a pillow in the dark stood miserably on a beach
seaweed clinging to your ankles paid
good money for a bad haircut backed away
from a mirror that wanted to kill you bled
into the back seat for lack of a tampon
if you swam across a river under rain sang
using a dildo for a microphone stayed up
to watch the moon eat the sun entire
ripped out the stitches in your heart
because why not if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming

Joy is fleeting, she is here one minute and gone the next. You cannot capture her, she cannot be caged. Joy is inimitable, she is her own woman. Joy is free and visits you in unexpected moments. She reminds you of truth and beauty, especially when you’d almost just about given up.

It may not always feel like it, and I don’t know her schedule, but I want you to know:

Listen I love you — joy is coming

Joy is coming.

Pass it on.

Sometimes you’re doing really well, then, after three or four years, everything inexplicably crashes like a house of cards and you have to rebuild it. It’s not like you get to a point where you’re alright for the rest of your life.  Patti Smith


  1. Kira says:

    Jel, this is your own poetry of words, of songs. It sings to me. The simplicity, the heart of the matter. One of the great secrets of our lives, of the universe. Happy is friendship. Joy is a bonafide girl gang full of fierce, soft women who care about you.

    1. Andjelka Jankovic says:

      Awww Kira, I just saw this! Soft and strong, that is what we are. This writing is quite a departure from my usual tone but I went with it and I’m glad it resonates with you xx