The spaces between

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


Throughout the life of Aesthetics of Joy, people have asked me whether analyzing joy the way I do has a tendency to mute my own experiences of joy. Like an impressionist painting or a Magic Eye graphic (remember those?), does getting too close to joy somehow obscure its holistic narrative? By trying to pin it down and understand it, do we threaten it?

It would be a very sad thing for me if so, and I can only imagine this project would’ve ended much sooner than it has. But in fact my experience has been exactly the opposite. My collection of joyful experiences serves as both a celebration of life’s highest peaks and a bulwark against tough times. Writing about joy helps me capture poignantly felt, but fleeting moments. Delving into delight’s minutia reveals new layers of joy, each bringing with it the potential for wonder. I draw on this rich catalogue in my work and life, using surprise heighten the pleasure of gifts, for example, or play in a design for a client, or abundance in my home to suffuse my space with good vibes. The design principles I embrace for joy are also the design principles of my life.

At low moments, this reserve of joyful stimuli becomes like stored-up solar energy. I soak it up, reminding myself of the healing powers of time, play, music, light, nature, color, and the company of others. To return to a primal ground, and to be able to trust in these human universals, is one of the great gifts of my work.

The memory of joy, and faith in its return, is an inconspicuous freedom. But what I have learned from the parallels between my work and my life is that joy is by definition cyclical, and therefore it will come again. And so I’ve become more patient with intervals, with the spaces between joys. Tough times will come, and because everything we feel is relative, they break our habituation, remind us to be grateful, and set the yardstick by which future happiness will be measured. So, in a seeming paradox, my devotion to joy has actually made me more patient with sorrow. A life well-lived is composed of a full range of emotions, honestly felt.

Despite this, there are tough times, and during these moments it can be difficult to find the energy to push to create, to immerse in the joyful world I’m usually so content to explore. If joy is cyclical, but work is constant, it’s inevitable that at some points I find myself out of sync, as has been the case recently. It hasn’t been easy to be away from you all this long, but I’m grateful for your patience. I’ve been saving up lots to talk about, and we are in the midst of a joyous time of giving and gathering! More soon…

Image: The image above is from Best Made’s FAQ page. If anything could make something as dry-sounding as an FAQ delightful, it’s those guys.

December 4th, 2011


Lost your spark?

The Joy Jumpstart is a 7-day, self-guided program to help you break out of a rut and reconnect with what makes you feel truly alive.

Leave a Comment

What's killing your joy? Take this 3-minute quiz to find out.
Free Resource

Find more joy every day

Our free workbook has 5 simple strategies that will make life better right now.

You'll also receive periodic updates on new things from The Aesthetics of Joy. We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.