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-I’m Joy, the girl who’s so broken that the thought of speaking two sentences is making it hard to breathe.-

I have read a bloody lot of books in my lifetime. Not as many as my sister, granted (though I HAVE read a bit more variety than her), and a lot of other people who are probably all older, but still, I’ve gone through my fair share of fiction. And in all of those books, I’ve been able to relate to a few lines said ~ the ones I end up sharing on my book reviews. But I have never come across a book like this one, because I have never found a character who had similar issues as me.

The first line says that Joy’s name is ironic, and I can agree with that. Joy is not ordinary. She was terribly abused all her life by her drunk mother and her bring-home boyfriends. As a result, Joy suffered from a number of things: inability to talk to people and understand people in general, antisocialism, inability to function around the smell of cigarettes or beer (due to her past experiences), fear of all men (including her uncle), and panic attacks. No, I don’t have all these problems, per se, but I can relate to more than one, just not obviously enough for people to think I need therapy. Which is good, because I don’t think I’d be able to talk so freely about myself to a therapist, even though I am better at talking to strangers than people I know. The only real difference I saw between me and Joy (besides the outward appearance of the problems) was that eventually, her life got better.

I have an awful lot of quotes I related to, but I have to decide which ones I’m going to share with you. Part of it is, how willing am I to expose myself on the Internet? Knowing my trust issues, probably not very. I just have thoughts on stuff, and I hope I can express them well enough without bringing myself into it too much.

-“And I’m relying on you to tell me how you feel.”-

I’m guessing this is a typical thing you would hear in a therapist’s office, but let’s take it OUT of the office for a sec. A lot of the time, people are so focused on themselves and their lives that they don’t have time to pay attention to reading the people around them. A lot of the time, if we’re hurting, it’s OUR job to tell someone else so maybe they can help. Some people, like Joy, are really bottled up inside for one reason or another, but with a knowledge of body language, reading them isn’t really that difficult. Have you ever tried to display your feelings through body language only? I know about body language, and I’ve given all the cues for whatever I’m feeling at the time I can possibly muster to see what happens, and nobody bats an eye. It’s really sad that people don’t even have the time to make sure if the people around them are all right. Isn’t this how youth suicide happens? Why can’t everyone just pay attention?

-A lot of my life still depends on the people around me and I have no idea how to be around them. Or even if I want to be. Learning how to feel normal is a hard thing to believe in.-

I’ve mentioned this before. How do you fit into a group? How do you know if you even WANT to? The people around you are always an enormous part of your life, and one way or another you have to find a way to be around them. The problem is, are they the right ones? Are they the kind of people you would want to be around, if you could? Is it worth trying? And then you have to wonder, is being “normal” really worth all that effort?

-“Does it bother you when I talk? Would you rather it just be quiet?” she asks.

“I like you talking.” Is that a good enough explanation? I find Tara interesting, and there’s nothing I want to say.-

When I think about this, I want to break something. People just don’t understand this at all. I’m really quiet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk or listen to someone talk. I listen to podcasts and the radio and such all the time. And the problem is, I find some people so interesting, but I’m no good at conversation, and apparently it’s weird for them to just talk. I don’t get that. Lately I’ve been really wanting to just talk. Don’t they? I mean, I know everyone else talks more than me, but surely they want to just talk sometimes too?

-It’s still the simple things in my life that overwhelm me.-

Now that I’ve gotten over wanting to break something, this makes me want to cry to think about. It saddens me so much how nobody seems to notice all the tiny things in life that I treasure so much. Nobody marvels at the uniqueness of spiders and bees; they just run or try to kill them when they see them. Nobody values a hand on the shoulder; they’ve all been touched plenty and simple contact has lost its charm. Nobody savors the sound or taste of a word in their mouth just because it’s different than the ones people usually use. Those things blow my mind every day and it just saddens me to no end how little they mean to everyone else.

-My heart’s beating hard, but I lean into him anyway. I wrap my arms around him and squeeze. My face is pressed into his chest. I never thought it would feel good to be close to a man like this. Ever. But his chest is warm and comforting, not suffocating.

His arms are careful but relaxed around me. “I love you, Joy.” He kisses the top of my head. Part of me never wants to move. But that’s just weird, isn’t it? To just stand with someone like that.-

Hugs are bizarre. A lot of the time, they’re awkward; other times, they’re unappreciated. But do you know what it feels like to go weeks, fortnights, even months without one? Joy gets it.

-I’m smiling and I didn’t even have to think about smiling. It’s like when Justin’s around, there isn’t room for thoughts outside of what we’re doing together.-

Don’t you just love those people who you get around and your problems melt away, and you just feel free?

-“You know how I said I don’t mind silence?” Justin asks.

“Yeah.” I keep my gaze on the clouds.

“You totally love it, don’t you?”

My eyes catch his. “I do.” But I also like sharing the quiet with someone, I’m just not sure if that’s something I should share.-

This is something that probably a lot of introverts think about. Lots of people don’t understand how precious silence is, or how much it should be cherished. Sometimes we just need it, for reasons we can’t even really explain, but sometimes we also want to share it with someone else. The problem is wondering if the other person will appreciate it enough. There’s sort of a minimum amount of appreciation required to be eligible to share it, you know?

-“You were quiet, didn’t look at anyone, but I could see in your eyes that you were thinking. A lot. I wanted to know what you were thinking about.”-

The cool thing is Justin. He’s a really great friend for Joy and I’m pleased as heck that she’s got him around. I’m a bit jealous, though, because nobody’s really like that in real life. People aren’t perceptive enough to see things like that in people they don’t really know, especially in introverts. It seems like when people see a quiet person, they leave them alone, which never made an ounce of sense to me because I would go to them. (Of course, I’m a quiet person myself, so maybe I just know better how they feel. And I don’t like loud people much.)

-Something like another wave of despair crashes into me. “I’m so heavy.” I blink and a tear slides down my cheek.

“Then you lean on us for a while. Let us carry you, Joy, until you’re not heavy anymore. That’s what family is.”-

That’s what family is supposed to be. That’s what you need from a family, whether it’s your biological family, your adopted family, or your very close-knit circle of friends because your real family isn’t doing it for you. You need to have people there that you can fall back on when you’re in trouble. It’s really important.

-“I like being around you. In silence, in non-silence, whatever. If you get sick of me, let me know so I can back off. But I wanna stick around.”-

This is all you have to say. Literally. Just have a little courage. Is that so hard?

-And it’s true what I read about joy. It’s the kind of happiness that not only fills you up but spills over. Really, all you have to do is look for it, and then have the strength to let it in. And believe it or not, that’s the hardest part.-