This week coronavirus, and fear of it, has reached pandemic proportions. Each day, the drumbeats get louder. Each of us gets to decide how much to change our behavior to adapt to new realities. My breathing is already compromised due to multiple sclerosis. Any respiratory illness would be difficult to manage. In the midst of all of this, I remind myself each morning to choose joy.

Joy is the lift of spirit, the lightning of soul you feel when you are overwhelmed by a sense of beauty and possibility. It comes when you call it, but sometimes it’s shy. It pokes its nose out around the leaves and has to be enticed to come nearer.

Today, I searched the web for “how to invite joy” and was introduced to Vironika Tugaleva, a spoken word poet from Canada. Several years ago, she made a video post from Banff wherein she encouraged viewers to follow their inner child. It’s about finding balance, she claimed, between the adult part of yourself that gets your taxes done and the child who wants to play and have adventures. The beauty of her snowy surroundings helped make her point.

The child in you approaches the world with awe and values play. Never mind the why’s and wherefore’s, isn’t this great? Awe, says the Center for Science for the Greater Good, is the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world. It can be cultivated by looking at images of beauty, hearing inspiring stories, and being out in nature. It seems to me that awe and joy are twins. Cultivate one, the other also arrives.

Photo of joy ducks

Yesterday, I gave away half a dozen joy ducks. They are little rubber duckies in fun costumes that carry quotes about joy glued to scraps of my watercolor paintings. They never fail to elicit smiles and lift spirits, both mine as the giver and in the folks who receive them. They are little joy ambassadors, carrying their message into this land of fear.

Caution is necessary, of course. None of us wants to be sick or contribute to the spread of illness. Fear, however, is optional. We can be joyfully cautious. All it takes are attitudes of awe and playfulness as we notice what is beautiful in the world.