Late the other night, I decided to take my small girl for a night light drive. We cruised downtown, then by the houses that have decided to leave their Christmas lights year round, and finally the rural airport.
Along the way, we sang loudly and with all our hearts, our favorite songs from Bob's Burgers.
"Butts, Butts, Butts" is a stone cold classic, but the one that the kids and I probably feel most attached to is "Lucky Ducks" from the movie.
Those lyrics hit us.
They hit us hard.
🎶Some lucky ducks get all the luck (oh, yes they do)
But that's not us (no, sir)
It really stinks, it really sucks
So we'll just play our lucky ducks🎶
For us, just existing hurts, and for one reason or another, it feels like I've been walking through hurricanes since I was born. And to be fair, my parents are products of hurricanes too.
(Gotta love that generational trauma!)
So in the Bob's Burgers movie when the kids go to makeshift camp that the carnies live, we feel right at home. And we sing with joy as the Wonder Wharf workers sing their working class woes about only being able to dream to have it so lucky.
It must be nice.
But let me tell you something else I've realized about this song and myself.
The Wonder Wharf workers are the lucky ducks.
They have this community where they can live unjudged and supported by one another. They feel seen and can be themselves even in ways society has deemed unfit for "civilized" folk. And at the end of the day, in all the shitshow that is their difficult life- they find joy, they dream, and they are good (unfortunately a little defensive) people.
Upon reflection, I realized I have this community too. My own family of Wonder(ful) Wharfies.
I have greatly limited my social media and socializing in general. I have burn out from caring about others over myself.
And I didn't want to be internet socializing about trending topics, taking selfies, and pretending everything is fine as my hair was falling out. My health was failing, and my spirit exhausted. At some point, you really do get too old to care about being relevant, and find yourself daydreaming that you are seen.
Man, was I depressed in that really hollow way where you're safe- but empty.
I had to fix it.
I will suffer a lot of things, but a life without silliness and laughter, I cannot live.
So I committed to learning how to cultivate joy and practiced recognizing it. I practiced feeling it. I chased joy like Jason Voorhees chases people who just had premarital sex. And most importantly, I practiced letting joy in. Because ultimately, my emotions are what they are, but I'm responsible for my own happiness. And I started to recognize that I was so hung up on obsessing over the ways I thought I failed or wasn't good enough, that I hadn't left much room to love myself.
I started making room. I made room for self care and self love by saying goodbye to habits that didn't serve me, emotional vices that were keeping me from growing, and people that didn't love me back, even if they were family!
I went from making an effort to check in with around 100 people in a week, to maybe 5.
My world got surprisingly small.
But I also found my family. People who call just to say, hey, wanted to hear you. A friend who has texted me a hug and says, "I love you" every single day since December. I'm not kidding. Every single day. Friends who send me jokes. Friends who write letters. Friends who send me Iron Chef innuendo just to keep it light.
And emails that say, "you can do this. I love you."
In the past couple weeks, I started using my private Instagram more, because my favorite YouTube channels have started posting live streams there.
I tried to "catch up" with my friends and see how their lives are going.
To my surprise, they seem to be just as unhappy, and maybe even more so.
This idea that people have it all because they have things materially is a lie.
It's cliche, and we know this on the surface. But when you get your epiphany moment that you start to know it in your heart - that's actually kind of scary.
Because it means that you really are on your own for taking charge of your happiness.
Stuff won't do it. Other people can't do it for you. It's on you to take care of you. Which is simultaneously the most frightening yet freeing realization.
I started to feel better once I made a point to live presently and invite joy. Even from the dumbest places. (Why yes, I did sing John Denver songs loudly and uninhibited to people I don't really know!)
Letting joy in doesn't stop all the bad from being bad. But it does make it easier to get from point A to point B without feeling overwhelmed by hopelessness.
And all of this, this emotional vomiting that I'm doing here- is to point out that I think the Wonder Wharf carnies have this joy too.
They've made their mistakes. They've done their time. Now they just focus on hanging out with their buds and playing a simple game of Lucky Ducks, because it's enough.
I am a lucky duck too. I have the most supportive friends a person could ask for. I have a partner that sees and embraces me. I'm still hot as hell. I have my hope. I have my joy. And most of all, I have my laughter.
🎶I'm gonna show them all what I can do
Gonna show 'em I'm much braver than what you
Think that I'm even though I'm small
No matter what comes, I gotta show you all🎶