I hesitate to write anything here today, as I feel I have something developing that isn't fully formed. Still, I want to get this much into print: Involuntary Joy is an invitation to empathy.
The truly ironic fact is that in my earliest years, I was keenly aware that I lacked the capacity for empathy--not fully, but to any degree that aligns with virtuous qualities like mercy and compassion.
Now, however, I can empathize with a great many things. And I believe it's because of the way Stross ushered me into motherhood.
Based on feedback about Involuntary Joy's impact to readers, I think it's safe to say it recreates our family's experience in a way that conveys what it felt like to be me at that time. Readers empathize with my experience. Best of all, it seems those feelings live on, helping readers better connect to others who are persevering through unanticipated pain.
And I'm beginning to realize that's what I've wanted all along. I sorta knew. But I really like the affirmation. (Me like affirmation? Perhaps an understatement, yes?) :-)
But seriously, if someone can vicariously live our family's experiences, then perhaps they can better connect to how their sister or daughter or neice or friend might be feeling -- even how that person's life companion might be feeling. That can only bring good things, for empathy leads to a level of understanding that fosters compassion. And compassion moves everyone just a bit closer to love--the quiet, all-encompassing, can't-get-around-it, agape kind of love.
It's the love that sits quietly next to someone who is crying and doesn't feel the need to speak.
The love that draws near to someone simply because being separated by time and space seems wrong.
The love that cooks a meal and offers to run errands so someone else can simply sit and be.
The love that says, "I can't know exactly how you feel, but I hurt with you." (Not for you, but with you.)
And if Involuntary Joy helps somebody recognize opportunities to do that for someone else, I'm deeply, deeply pleased.
Amen. May it indeed be so.