Feckless Joy

I get up and, immediately dizzy, wait, holding on until I feel steady. I look down as I walk and think I look strong. Maybe it’s the Nike Swoosh across my toes. Maybe Pop’s old blue PJs, rolled up above my knees, or the racerback tank with the hollow-eyed skull on the front. For this minute, I feel not-broken. (Maybe.)

I think, “maybe I won’t cry today.”

Quieter, I think, “this is fine.”

“I can go on, like this.”

No more tests, no more doctors—wait—I’ve already taken my medicine this morning.

(I need water, I’ll get dehydrated, always forget, shit.)

Okay, so no more new doctors. No more tests. I’ll take what I’m taking, this is fine.

This, I can do.

Maybe I won’t cry today?

I fill up a big glass of ice-cold water and the thought, “What is Joy?” floats into my head, an abrupt intrusion, and unlike the butterflies that have been landing on me all morning, it doesn’t fly away.

I drink deep and get my notebook and pen, no idea what will come out other than “What is Joy?” and maybe (probably) not even that.

As I walk toward the door, my head feels heavy, like it’s a bowling ball I won’t be able to carry much longer.

I sit and, turning to a new page, glimpse yesterday’s list of things not done, remember today’s things that won’t be done, all the many things always coming undone…

I shake off, push down, smother out the rush of worry these thoughts bring.

No. Not now. (They’ll wait.) I inhale cancer-causing, anxiety-eating smoke and start writing, not about Joy, at least not as could be recognized.

Soon, though the notebook is resting on my thighs, the arm holding it in place aches and starts to tremble. My handwriting becomes illegible as the fingers of my right hand protest at holding a pen for—what? Three minutes?

Another butterfly lands and quickly leaves.

What is Joy.

I sit back, exhausted, feet burning, back and neck and tailbone hurting so much now, too much, and fuck, what was I thinking, writing, both arms from elbow joints to finger tips on fire, screaming in pain and my bowling-ball head, not one to be ignored, tentatively joining in, tapping out a subtle beat.


Loud, I-am-the-boss, I think, “No. Not. Today.”

Quiet, I think, “please.”

What is Joy?

A momentary illusion of strength.

A fragile bubble burst too soon.

A daily dream that is my life-mare.

I don’t know this “Joy” except as it flits in, then out.

Another butterfly, tasting the blue truth of woven cotton, fluttering away.

I shake my bowling-ball head at feckless Joy, scared off by salty tears.

Someone says, “It’s all in how you look at it!”

I look.

“Looks pretty fucking shitty,” I think, sour.

Someone says, “Stay positive! Other people have it so much worse, you know.”

Someone says, “You know she’s faking it. Just wants attention.”

Someone says, “It’s not like she’ll show up. Why bother asking?”

I say, “These butterflies keep thinking I’m a flower.”

About Steph

I like words. I suspect I would like sanity, but I really have no way of knowing. I can be reasonable, but not often. View all posts by Steph

13 responses to “Feckless Joy

  • becauseofheriwillnotfall

    Thank you for this. The last lines were amazing.

    I was just outside in a similar feeling and saw a butterfly, but you helped understand why it was there.


  • Kim Scudera

    Thank you for sharing with us. I’m rooting for you, and for joy. ❤️

    On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 1:00 PM We Don’t Chew Glass wrote:

    > Steph posted: “I get up and, immediately dizzy, wait, holding on until I > feel steady. I look down as I walk and think I look strong. Maybe it’s the > Nike Swoosh across my toes. Maybe Pop’s old blue PJs, rolled up above my > knees, or the racerback tank with the hollow-eyed” >


  • Elizabeth

    Sending some of my joy to you. And a couple pretty butterflies. Joy will come. Don’t forget depression lies. Love will win.


  • anniedenn1967

    Lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, and tarsal tunnel syndrome in my feet… I know what you’re talking about in having these sensations and feelings as well as responses from people who don’t see invisible illnesses, or can’t see them. I appreciate your writing, and I too have been focusing on the butterflies for the last couple of decades and will continue to do so. Thanks for writing.


    • Steph

      Thank YOU for commenting. I don’t post much like this, but maybe I should. Reading just the first few words of your comment was like, “This person gets it!” I didn’t know that’s what I needed. Thanks.


  • Twindaddy

    I loved the writing in this post despite its sad nature. Unfortunately it seems like the darkness brings out the best words for most of us. Hopefully things will begin to look up soon, my friend.


    • Steph

      Doesn’t it?! Sometimes, when I’m at my worst, I tell myself that maybe I’ll at least write something. Then when I’m close to okay, I worry that I’ve medicated my creativity away. Which is silly; the dark always comes back, and so does the light.

      So good to hear from an old friend! I’ve been terrible at both writing and reading.


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