This Side of Joy


The picture on my bookshelf

Tucked away on my bookshelf is a picture of me when I was maybe three or four-years old sitting in an armchair and smiling broadly, holding a doll. My haircut is a bit awful, styled in a bowl-shape and there’s a substantial gap between my two front teeth. Yet, I can look past the questionable hair and bad teeth because all I really see is a positively happy girl whose smile is genuine and infectious. 

I wish I could remember that day, that moment in time, to understand the origin of my happiness. Was it the person behind the camera taking the picture who made me smile so? Was it because I was holding a toy? Or was it just because I was in a home where I was fortunate enough to be safe and loved? The answer could have been all of these, or none of these. Truthfully, it really doesn’t even matter. It’s the adult me that wants answers and needs to know how that little girl could be so happy. 

My mama sometimes tells me a bit wistfully how happy and joyful I was as a little girl and this photo must be proof of that. Growing up, I was always playing dress-up and make-believe with my brother, friends and later the dog when we finally got one, forever an actress with a wild imagination and flair for the dramatics. 

I’m sure it was inevitable that darker forces would chip away at the unbridled childhood joy. I mean, no one can be that happy forever, right? 

Now as adults we rarely have time for joy, fun or play. Our lives are stressed and full of obligations, complications and an endless “to do” list. So, when joy manages to find us, it takes us completely by surprise. Early August, joy knocked me off my feet…nearly quite literally…

I was in the middle of a hectic week at work thanks to a large-scale event. Nerves and tensions were running high. I’d had a moment earlier one particular day that week where I was unintentionally snippy with someone, driven by a need to eat and drained of energy. I apologized but I still felt bad about it. 

A few hours later, I was at a new post and feeling slightly rejuvenated when I saw the person walk past me with a friend of mine. I rushed up to her to apologize again and as we were talking, my friend who was with her slammed into my side. I think I stared wildly at him for a moment with a look of “what the heck are you doing?” but then started shoving him right back. The crowds parted around us and for a minute, maybe longer, maybe shorter, it was just us: me versus him in a mini wrestling match. The rest of the world slowed down or just froze around us. And it was awesome because it was fun. And spontaneous. It was pure uninhibited joy. For that brief moment in time, I felt like a real kid again, goofing around with my friend. Honest, it was the highlight of that week. 

We want to remember the joy instead of wallowing in the pain or the hurt in our lives. The joy uplifts us and gives us the courage to tackle the rest. Sometimes the joy is fleeting, but when it grabs hold, it’s absolute magic. 

I’m trying to reclaim the joy that little girl felt in that picture. There are cherished moments, like that day at work a few weeks ago, that bring me closer to it. And then there are my intentions to be living, working, breathing and dreaming a life of purpose that make me believe I can achieve it. 


About Six Feet Standing Tall

Sara Tieman blogs at Six Feet Standing Tall. She stands at 5’11″ and probably could be six feet tall if she stood up straighter…or wore higher heels. She lives in Chicago but also fancies London as her home, too. Attempting to live her life fearlessly, she hopes to share stories that readers will find amusing, insightful or somewhat intriguing as she tries to figure out the meaning of life.
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