Jumping for Jupiter

When GForce was about two, we were getting out of the car one clear fall evening and we stopped in the front yard to look up at the stars. I pointed to the biggest and brightest object in the sky and said, “That’s Jupiter.”

Jupiter

“GET Jupiter!” she said, as she scrunched up her tiny legs and attempted to jump up and touch it. She sighed. “Too hard.” Then she looked at me. “Mama get Jupiter!” I jumped up and reached for Jupiter and came down empty handed. I looked at her and shrugged. She sighed again, shrugged, shook her head, and said, “Too hard.”

 

We repeated this scene every evening that fall until Jupiter was no longer in the sky before she went to bed. She was never upset that we couldn’t get Jupiter, but she always wanted us to try. It was as though, over those few weeks, her day wasn’t complete without at least making the effort to Jump for Jupiter.

I’ve found this Get Jupiter! movie playing in my head a lot lately. Maybe it’s because Jupiter is being its brilliant self again this fall. Or maybe it’s because over the past couple of weeks, the most amazing responses continue to come in to my “It Gets Better” essay, either privately via email or in the comments section. Or maybe it’s both.

One of the commenters this week, Beth Thrutchley, wrote a stunning essay where she held in one hand both the persistent, sometimes frail hope of It Gets Better and the nagging question of Will It Get Better? If you haven’t read it, you must.

You may wonder how my Joybrain connects the dots between Jumping for Jupiter and It Gets Better. I think it has to do with the wildly crazy idea of engaging other people in something as absurd as reaching for a celestial body. It seems to me that when we connect with each other, and collectively envision a future worth living into, that is not so different from GForce looking up at me, pointing at a planet, and saying, “Mama get Jupiter!”

Jules Dassin’s 1948 movie “The Naked City” ended with the epic line “There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.” Maybe I’m showing my irrational optimism here, but I think you could say that about each individual person.

John Rockefeller was once asked “How much money is enough money?” His reply, “Just a little bit more.” That’s how I feel about stories. It’s why I was crazy enough to create this website. I have an insatiable drive to tell stories, to hear stories, and to connect stories that appear to have no relationship to each other.

When I first read Beth Thrutchley’s comment/essay, I felt completely speechless as tears ran down my face. The question, “Will It Get Better?” seemed so impossibly big, even unbearable. When I was talking about it with PW, who is, by virtue of her vocation, in the Hope Business, she suggested that the answer to the question “Will It Get Better?” is partly in the very asking of the question. It just did get better, even if only a little bit, because Beth was brave enough, or crazy enough, or both, to share some of her stories and questions with the rest of us.

The webs of interconnectedness that we create with each other are built on the persistent, sometimes fragile threads of the stories and questions we share with each other. Community is grounded in the idea that one plus one can be so much more than two, whether we’re celebrating or grieving or singing or sitting in silence or the countless other ways we make ourselves known to each other.

So consider this my notice to all of you out there: if you need someone to Jump for Jupiter, either with you or for you, I’m your girl.

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4 responses to “Jumping for Jupiter

  1. Another great post. i can picture you and Gforce trying to “get jupiter.” It reminds me of when I was carrying my nephew from the grocery store to the car one fall night. Not sure how old he was–3 maybe? I pointed to a star and said, “Look, Jase–it’s a star!” He said “Aunt NayNay, that’s not a star. That’s Jupiter.” Shows what I knew. Thanks, again, for sharing so much more than you could realize. Fan.tast.ic!

  2. Jumping for Jupiter reminds me of GForce’s first dive into 8′ of water in our back yard Florida swimming pool when she was not quite three years old. Fortunately, Joy, your camera caught her in mid-air, hair still dry, beaming smile, having just watched you dive in and chirped, “I can do that!”
    I knew then that we had a “Jupiter jumper” for a granddaughter, recipient of Jupiter jimping genes from her mother. And it’s been one breathtaking moment of contemplation after another for me, watching you two grow up together, leaving most of the rest of us spellbound.
    Thanks for including Beth Thrutchley’s response to your “It Gets Betteer” post. We’ve known the Thrutchleys for so many years, and know of many of their struggles with the poignant question, “Will it get better?”
    What a gorgeous post! Keep ’em rolling

  3. Joy,
    Thanks for sharing your ongoing story with us. Perhaps the blog has become our dinner table and sitting by the fire sharing stories with family, friends and even strangers. I’m with you I love stories of all kinds. I especially love to hear the stories of ordinary people who continue to jump for Jupiter and wonder if things will get better. I happen to believe that they always get better but there are days when I also wonder if they will. I’m touched by every one of your posts. The beauty of your writing helps baptize me in my own tears and I feel renewed hope after each one. Thanks for being a light in the world.

  4. Dear Joy,
    Thank you for your thoughtful, loving response to my honest revelation of my fears, anxiety, and ongoing hope for hope. Your support and affirmation are deeply meaningful. PW, “in the business of Hope” reminded me of the gentle shift that occurs when truth is shared rather than merely internalized. I have copied your paragraph about the webs of interconnectedness and how in community one plus one is so much more than two. It is on the wall by my desk. It is the “story” of my life and yet my memory and faith seem to fade at times. Your insights and declarations arrived at a critical time. Thank you.

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