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What’s Joy Got to Do with It?

Following our previous piece: "Reimagining and taking up Space", we wanted to dive deeper into what it means to practice and move towards Joy. We decided to chat about how we have come to understand Joy in the context of high-performance culture and how last year in particular helped us to define this ambiguous term for ourselves.

This conversation was inspired by the essay "Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform", which is included in the 2017 e-flux journal, What’s Love (or Care, Intimacy, Warmth, Affection) Got to Do with It? Read it here.

Fez: Joy is when I feel free from any sort of negativity. That is how I personally define it; I see it as the opposite of feeling anxious. When I’m thinking of things that bring me joy, I'm thinking of things that bring me overwhelming positivity.

Holly: I think for me, it’s probably a situation where I feel safe and comfortable. For example, if I just ordered a takeaway at home and I know I’m going to watch some TV and think: this is my time. Or when I’m out with people. My joy is when I feel comfortable.

Fez: It’s good that you can recognise that within yourself because when something isn’t bringing you joy, it’s important to know that you can take yourself out of the situation. I think a lot more people understand that now. Before the ‘Panasonic’, it was always “let’s go out out”, “let’s do this and do that”, and if you didn’t want to go out and socialise you had to have an excuse.

Holly: Before Covid, I would try my best to be honest if I didn't want to do something.

Fez: That’s because you're a Virgo (laughs).

Holly: Nice to meet you, I'm a Virgo (laughs). I think it's also about the people around you - they can help bring the joy out! If I’m with someone who I’m comfortable with, I can say what’s on my mind. It’s about finding people who you can share that with. Like when we spoke about community, it’s very important to have people around you that know you and allow you to feel comfortable.

Fez: I think that our sense of joy tends to be very much community-based and I get joy from being around my community. I feel like I developed a bit more of an understanding of setting boundaries within that.

Holly: It’s like in What’s Love Got to Do With It (edited by Sternberg Press); in the essay ‘Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform’ there was something they said about the beauty of latency. Instead of the rush of trying to do everything, and challenging high-performance culture, there is value in taking time and being slow, thinking about things, taking time to reflect. I think that can be an enjoyable thing.

Fez: Yes! Living in a capitalist, neoliberal society, it’s very ‘make your money, side hustles etc’. Most people are just trying to navigate the burden of capitalism - the machine is really bringing everyone down. It’s hard because everything around you is pushing you to consume and show how productive you are and display all the things you've done, but that doesn't actually bring you joy.

Holly: I agree, and thinking about this in the context of the ‘Panasonic’. I feel like there was a time when everyone saw the beauty in doing nothing, then suddenly there was this pressure to perform the art of doing nothing, like who's been crocheting, who's been making banana bread, who's been working out...

Fez: (Laughs) Post your banana bread pics.

Holly: Then suddenly I started to feel stressed out again, like how did that happen? But like you said, it's the beast of capitalism. She did what she was already going to do.

Fez: It’s that feeling of not being able to just relish in the moment. There's part of you that wants to plan ahead and think of the future and be ambitious, but I think when it's driven by capitalism then it sucks out the joy. I'm just trying to think of joy in terms of the now, and becoming a bit more selfish in the way I practice joy.

Holly: The pressure to perform kind of takes the “you” out of the things you do because you are thinking about something else, whether that be another person or another thing, or even a structure that limits your ability to decide what to say yes and no to. Joy is that shameless selfish quality, and it’s seen to be a bad thing but it’s the essence of what we want to do and who we are.

Fez: And to feel seen and heard with those demands. We should start using that language, demanding what we want in safe and just parameters. Have you got any more gems that you want to share from the book?

Holly: It talks about how we often feel indebted to other people and therefore do not prioritise ourselves. “In what way is it precisely this indebtedness to others that enables us to perform in the first place” and “overcoming the fear of influence we could then move to a politics of dedication” and that's what I also feel like joy is, what you are dedicated to.

Fez: Also being dedicated to your joy and your own idea of what you want. So often things are imposed on us, whereas if we have our own ideas of what we want, I think that would be more valuable for us as a collective and allows us to experience joy more authentically.

Holly: I think it’s about finding a way to make it operate more communally as well as personally. I think lockdown was a time for people to think about collective joy and question existing structures and how we can make them more accessible.

Fez: There has been a shift that a lot of people are experiencing, both within themselves or their communities, and I think now when things feel like they're opening up again, it's important for all of us to still feel centred in that idea of what joy is and how we can find and maintain that. We should be actively working towards that for ourselves and our community.

Holly: Yes, be that moving towards something or moving away from something and just honouring that movement. It's not always what we move towards, it is also taking yourself out, taking a step back. Like what Sara Ahmed wrote about permission notes and being able to say no. When you live in a high-performance society, saying no is a radical and beautiful thing.

Fez: It is, *snaps wildly* You're right in saying that we should be saying no a lot more and we should have power in saying no. Often if you’re someone who’s marginalised, it can feel like you have no choice or agency and sometimes you don’t, so saying no is radical.

Holly: I guess people can sometimes have these ideas about what boundaries are and what they're supposed to be. Boundaries are important. It’s about knowing them and realising that maybe you've spent too much time pleasing other people and actually where you want to be is outside of that line. That’s where I’m going.

Fez: My own thing.

Holly: (singing) “I be on my own ting.”

Fez:(sings) “I be on my way”.

Holly: Do what you love, take up space joyfully, be yourself, honour your movements, laugh loudly, and sit in the pleasure of your authenticity.

Fez: That's it. That's it.


Fez & Holly - SHY COLLECTIVE Read more about them here

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