Prompt: Joy–Take us back to a moment this year when you experienced pure, unadulterated joy. (I found myself extending the moment.)
I’m in the second bedroom that serves as our library, costume closet and projects repository. My laptop, stand and scarred old grey leather chair are set up next to the single window. From where I sit typing, I can look to my right and see the sky.
I’ve been thinking all day about what to write. Joy. Why is it so much harder to focus on than something negative? The words overflow when I think of something that irritated me or something that hurt. I get the full sensory palate there whether I want it or not. Happiness must just come in a different form, transitive, elusive, losing some of its essence when you try to comprehend it with earthly words.
Offerings did make their appearance. Love. Hope. A wish come true. An unexpected windfall. Relief after a long wait. Release from a pressing worry. Something sacred, hallowed or time-honored. I could pick one of those, but today none of them seemed quite right.
What kept coming to mind instead was my guinea pig.
Reggie’s home is this second bedroom. His life is bounded by the four walls of his cage. It’s a generous cage, filled with hidey-holes and toys, but it’s still his sole possession. He’s dependent on us for food, water and bedding. He’s dependent on us to bring him out on the floor so he can exercise his little legs and tubby body, and guard him from those tasty electrical cords and tastier plastic bags.
He’s subject to our sense of decency, of humanity, of not being abusive degenerates who think having another being’s life in their care is something to destroy.
He’s dependent on our love. And he gives us his love right back, unconditionally.
When I was unemployed, the pig room was my office. Where before my routine was leaving early in the morning and coming home in the evening, now I was part of Reggie’s routine. I sat here with my laptop doing my job search job while he finished his breakfast, puttered around his cage, took a nap, got up, ate his second breakfast, so forth and so on.
We got along so well, me’n’the pig. He knew I was somehow not-gone during the day anymore, and he accepted me like I’d always been there.
Anyone who’s been on the job search circuit or worked on a months-long project knows how wearing it can get. The days seem endless, anything you produce seems to be biting its own tail, and hope is something you heard of once but don’t remember the plot.
But somehow just looking up from my screen and seeing my little guy snoozing in the sun or eating hay in my direction helped keep me going. Getting up and walking the few steps over to admire the latest toothy decoration on his empty Kleenex box or new arrangements of his cardboard tunnels (he had his own jobs too) reinvigorated me to get through the day.
He brought me such comfort–and kept me to my routine as well as his. There was no taking a long break and playing on the floor during the day, no. The evening was when he wanted to come out, after the laptop was closed and dinner was eaten. Then it was playtime, time to run races with himself, jump-and-twist in midair, talk to himself in that burbling guinea-pig way and explore adjacent rooms, one foot hanging back in case he needed to double back in a hurry. There’s such a lot of personality wrapped up in those little critters.
Eventually, I went back to work. I knew then that I’d miss this time. I knew that I’d look back and cherish those hours and days as much as I cherished them when they were happening, because with beloved pets you always know there’s an end date.
One day he won’t be there. But right now all I have to do is look over the edge of my monitor and see him. And that gives me joy.