The Most Vulnerable Emotion

Duck #123

“Jayna, what do you think is the most vulnerable emotion we can have?”
I paused, shrugging my shoulders.
“Would you believe me if I told you that it was joy?”

I paused again, looking at my therapist trying to understand why she would ask me that. I asked her to explain.

“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion because we’re afraid to lose it. Think about it, we’re not worried that fear will go away or that anger will go away, or sadness—but joy…we’re afraid that once we get it, it won’t last.”

Loose wires started to connect and unscrewed bolts began to tighten.

I nodded.

She continued, “Jayna, for some reason, you have this inner narrative that keeps you afraid of joy. It’s like your shame is trying to protect you from the devastation of losing joy. Once it comes, you struggle to enjoy it, not wanting to get attached, because you ‘know’ it’s going to leave.”

My inner child felt both seen and also extremely sad.
I don’t remember if I cried at this point, but it is very likely. Therapy does that too ya. It just hurts so good, ya know?


That was a few weeks ago.

Earlier this week, at my appointment, my therapist said, “Jayna, can you take note of the times that you’re laughing? Can you take a few seconds to realize how that feels, to realize that you’re safe?”

I nodded. “Yes, I can do that. I love laughing!”

“I know you do! Pay attention to your body when you’re laughing, like really laughing.”

What I’ve realized through this counseling process is that the body really does keep the score. Apparently, there’s a fire alarm in my brain that’s been going off for months now. Essentially, my body has felt like it’s under threat and so my brain is sending off signals alerting me of danger and is doing everything it can to keep me safe. This is all happening in my amygdyla. Brains are bananas, y’all.

As I’ve continued to work through past trauma and experiences, the fire alarm doesn’t go off as much, but it’s still fairly sensitive.  Making toast in my mind is precarious work. But I’m not in danger anymore. I know that, I really do…there’s just still a part of me that’s trying to catch up to that fact.

I’m safe.

And whether I realize it or not, I feel the safest when I laugh. If you’ve ever seen me laugh you’ve noticed at least these 2 things—

1)It doesn’t take much to get me going

2)Once I start, my knees “give out” shortly thereafter

It’s quite the sight to behold. People whom I’ve just met are always concerned, but my friends are faithful to immediately say, “She’s fine. She just does this.” If there aren’t any “new” people in the mix, my friends will just say, “Oh! There she goes!”

I can’t help it. I’ve seen video of myself when my laughter “takes me”, as I like to say, and it’s pretty funny. I look ridiculous, but you know what else I look? Safe. Safe and Free.


As I was getting out of my car for work this morning, I dropped an orange I’d brought with me. Immediately, the orange started to roll through the parking lot and like an animal I ran, bent over, after it. Realizing how silly I looked, I started to laugh. In doing so, I remembered another time I was doubled over in laughter outside, near a car. I was with a good friend. He was talking about something, and then all of a sudden he wasn’t. He had slipped and fallen in the wet grass. Where I could once see his head above the car, I saw nothing but black. You truly had to be there (or be me) to find all of this as funny as I did/do.

Anyway, I immediately sent this friend a video of me recalling the story. In the video, I was laughing (who’s surprised, honestly?). I walked into work still giggling to myself and thought about my therapist’s words. I tried to take notice of how my body felt.

Calm. Relaxed. Shoulders down. Jaw unclenched. Mind swimming down a stream instead of its usual race through the rapids. I smiled and thanked Jesus that for my frequent laughing fits.


Even though I laugh frequently, I always worry that maybe one day I won’t be able to. Maybe one day I won’t be completely overtaken by my laughter. Maybe one day this joy will be gone. Of course, the Lord is faithful to let me laugh. He lets me laugh big, hearty, loud, and body encompassing laughter. And it’s beautiful. It’s precious. When I laugh with all of who I am I’m not worried about who I am, how I’m perceived or what might happen. I can just be. I can be full of joy.

What I’m realizing now is that true and genuine laughter only comes out when I feel safe. I give the specifications of true and genuine because we all know what it’s like to nervously laugh. (Think: the awkward laugh that happens when unwanted, sexual attention is given. Laughter and consent aren’t the same, people!) But true and genuine laughter—the kind that steals your breath, the kind that puts your stomach in a tight knot, the kind that can’t possibly sound attractive because it doesn’t have the time—is the kind that tells our bodies, “Hey. You’re safe. It’s okay. Lean into this moment.”


The book of Nehemiah says that it’s the Lord’s joy that is our strength. What good news that is! My joy isn’t my strength. It’s His. Sealed by the Spirit, hidden in Christ, my Father holds both my strength and my joy. He is my safe retreat and the gift of laughter is a reminder of that.

And joy, while a vulnerable emotion, can’t ever be lost. It doesn’t be long to me. At least, not entirely. I’m not responsible for it…my Jesus is. And he’s the best keeper of all things sacred and vulnerable. He’s the best at details and intricacies.

So here is this joy, Lord. It belongs to you. You’ve allowed me to hold it and it feels frail. Help me to remember that my hands aren’t strong enough and that I have to let you hold them. You give and take away, yes, but there is a guarantee that you will never leave. And in your presence is fullness of joy. So, my sweet Jesus, abide with me. Abide with me, and let’s laugh.


post grad duck #4

there’s something really cool about a free write. there’s something really authentic and raw and real about typing and not letting your fingers stop until they’re done. i did that today and here’s what happened.

it’s seems like there’s been a block. something happened inside me that i’ve wanted to ignore, but can’t seem to just shrug off anymore because there’s a piece of my heart that’s grown and torn and ripped and been kicked a little bit and so now its in the process of healing and that’s great because as you grow life does too and your heart expands but it’s not easy it’s often really painful. but i don’t want to hurt, ya know? because no one likes that and when you’ve been hurt before you do everything in your power not to be hurt again and that’s why we put up walls, that’s why we try to act tough, that’s why we don’t say anything because if we speak up, if we falter, if we let our face indicate how we feel inside we’ll get laughed at and we’ll get beaten up a little bit and we don’t want that. but that’s no good either because we can’t live in fear, that’s not what life is about. but i want to protect myself. i don’t want to hurt, but i’m not strong enough to protect myself. i’m incapable of doing it alone and that’s why i need Jesus to save me. and i know that He’s real and i know that He loves me and i know that He exists but sometimes you can just crawl inside yourself and convince yourself that the cracks you see are too wide to fill, you can convince yourself that the bruises are too deep to dissolve and that you can’t be saved. you’re sad and sometimes it’s easy to stay sad even when you don’t want to be sad, but you can’t help it because it takes a lot of energy to move forward sometimes. so you try to scream but your voice is paralyzed and you try to cry but your tears are frozen and you try to feel but your heart is dry and you need water, you need water so badly because your veins are so thirsty for something that’s bigger than yourself. your muscles ache for a type of relief that can’t be remedied by stretching or sleeping because it’s deeper than that, it’s bigger than that. and Jesus is right there. He’s so in love with you and hates that you’re hurting, but it’s so hard to run to Him sometimes because you shame yourself for not believing Him when He’s right there. but He’s patient and you know that and so little by little you step forward because He’s pulling you towards Him. you can’t help but to move because He’s calling and so you have to answer because just maybe when you finally reach Him you’ll be overwhelmed with the love that you thought you could find elsewhere. maybe when He holds you in His arms you’ll feel whole again because He’s the only one that can cover the cracks and aid the bruises and grow a room inside you that’s only meant for dancing and laughing and signing and popsicles and lollipops and flowers. and you know that He’s not punishing you because that’s not His character, but you know the the world is broken just like you and you know that sometimes things get hard but you’re frustrated because i should have seen this coming and i was aware and this time was supposed to be different. so then He whispers and He says that you can’t know everything because it’s not your job and you’re human and I love you and I need you to trust Me because I’m right here and you can rest when you’re with Me. And that sounds great and that’s what i want but it’s hard and i keep saying but because i can’t help it to think of every side of every option of every thought because when your mind goes and won’t stop you exhaust everything. but i wanna feel and i want to cry and i want to laugh and i want to sing and i want to feel and i want lighting to strike inside and i want rain to fall and i want the earth to shake the foundation of my heart because at the end of the day i want to grow and i want to be stronger and i want to move forward and i want to stand up and i ant to admit that i’m not always okay and i want to be okay with that and it’s exciting because i know that you feel that too. i know that sometimes life is really crazy and you don’t understand why things happen or why you get upset or why you’re treated a certain way or why people hurt you or why you hurt people but you’re a beautiful creation and you’re so deeply loved and we don’t have to have it all together. it’s beautiful to be broken because that means that the Lord gets to make us whole because He’s always been whole and He wants to fix those fragmented pieces and mold them into a masterpiece because that’s who He is and we get to enjoy Him forever and glorify Him through our brokenness by admitting that when we’re weak He’s strong and we can say that we believe but need help with our unbelief and that’s amazing because that’s exactly how He wants us to talk to Him. honesty is extravagant and we shouldn’t have to hide even inside ourselves and when we feel deeply we don’t have to apologize, so we can run with blurry vision and exhausted legs and needles in our feet and faintness of breath and say “Jesus, i’m here.”