Montclair author Cyndie Spiegel’s second book, MICROJOYS, is a collection of deeply personal essays that are at once relatable and surprising. The full title shares the purpose more fully: MICROJOYS – Finding Hope (Especially) When Life is Not Okay. Each micro-essay shares a thoughtful anecdote about loss, change, love, encouragement, grief, and more. Ms. Spiegel’s openness with her own emotions feels authentic and vulnerable, allowing readers to look at their own experiences with clarity and kindness. Each essay is followed by a prompt that asks readers to “consider this,” which focuses on making the most out of times of difficulty and appreciate times of happiness.
Most impressive about this collection of memoir essays is the ability to find moments and nuggets of joy without succumbing to the bubbly and saccharine cover-ups of modern day memes and soundbites. There are no cure-all promises for what ails us, but behind the stories and prompts is a confidence that we all have the ability to discover what we need.
The book is set up in sections centered on observations, overcoming hardships, and our relationships. Spiegel leads us through moments that are revisited, referenced, and refocused in different sections of the book. Much like life. Despite the briefness of each share, Spiegel’s chosen moments, and the prompts that follow, have a depth and closeness that bring the reader in. Reading MICROJOYS feels like having a weekend of conversation with a trusted friend.
Baristanet sat down with Ms. Spiegel to ask some questions about the book and what readers can expect.
Baristanet: Congratulations on the publication of your second book! To start us off, what are microjoys?
Cyndie Spiegel: Microjoys are the easily accessible moments of joy that can be experienced regardless of our current circumstances; an antidote to toxic positivity that (inadvertently) shames us for feeling anything other than positive at all times.
Baristanet: MICROJOYS is categorized under Self-Help and Personal Growth, but it feels more like memoir. How do you see it? And what do you hope readers take away from the book?
Spiegel: It is memoir in addition to personal growth. My audacious hope is that readers walk away from MICROJOYS with a deeper understanding of how to access joy regardless of their current circumstances.
Baristanet: Microjoys includes micro-essays that are fun and have silly moments, but they also share deep loss and personal trauma. How did you develop comfort with sharing such personal moments? How does this help you achieve your goal for your readers?
Spiegel: Comfortable? Ha! Emotional comfort has never been a priority for me and so I’ve learned to do the work and simply sit with that discomfort. I’ve been writing longform personal essays on Instagram for quite a while, though grief was not something that I’d ever shared about. And. But. When my nephew was killed in 2020; it felt like the world was collectively grieving something…everything. And because of that; I felt an openness to share in ways that I otherwise may not have. Perhaps that was preparation for me writing this book. MICROJOYS is deeply personal and still, I’m not necessarily comfortable with that aspect of it but I do feel that much of this book came through me to write in ways that I wasn’t always consciously aware of. I felt compelled to write what came to mind during that time.
As I read these essays now; I recognize with full clarity that I could never write this same book again. I was broken open with generosity, grief, loss, love, gratitude, overwhelm, sadness, and even…joy ~ so many different feelings swirled during the writing of MICROJOYS. And because of that, I think folks will connect with the everything-ness of these essays because we’ve all been there. Many of us know what it means to feel everything all at once with no real “place” to put those feelings.
Baristanet: The structure of sharing a meaningful anecdote followed by an invitation for reflection is something we see in self-help literature, but in Microjoys, it feels more organic and authentic than a manual or guide. How did you decide on the content for the “consider this” sections?
Spiegel: I’m really glad you asked about this. When I set out to write this book; I was clear that this would not be a “How To” book in the traditional sense. Having experienced so much loss in recent years, I have no interest in telling other people what to do or feel while holding joy, grief (or both.) I am aware of the harm that is sometimes caused when we try to fix what we assume is broken in others. So even the language of the Consider This section was purposeful. Initially, it started out as a “Try This” section at the end of each essay and we changed it halfway through the editing process. I trust that these essays speak to our human nature without needing to offer specific instruction for tapping into the lessons shared. This structure is meant to be hyper-simple while loosely guiding the reader to separate my specific example from the microjoy experienced. I did this in an effort to create space for readers to see themselves and their own joy by gently asking folks to consider what makes the most sense based on their own lived experience.
Baristanet: A recurring phrase throughout Microjoys is “And. But.” Can you elaborate on what that meant to you?
Spiegel: A microjoy comes from having the ability to access joy, in spite of current circumstances. And at the foundation of having a mindset of microjoys is understanding that we can hold multiple truths at once; joy in one hand and grief in the other, at all times. And. But. This phrase leaves the space for many, sometimes conflicting, ideas to be true at the same time; joy and grief, gratitude and loss etc. It may sound meta, but it’s simple – many feelings, situations and experiences can be true for different people and that is sometimes a hard concept to grasp in a world that is becoming more divisive. For example, I recall looking at photo albums with pictures of my nephew after he passed away and laughing out loud through tears; grieving him but also recalling the funniest memories of him, too. Laughter and loss. Momentary happiness but also sadness. And. But. Both.
Baristanet: The chapter titled “When Gratitude is Enough” discusses the dichotomy of post-trauma celebration that feels performative and giving ourselves grace to appreciate, if not yet celebrate, joys and wins. While survivor’s guilt is not mentioned specifically, it is something many people feel — especially after the years of health and social trauma we’ve lived through. How can gratitude help us through these tough times?
Spiegel: Gratitude asks us to feel grateful for the good that currently exists. It doesn’t require us to avoid, ignore or disregard the hard stuff in an effort to find the good. Holding all of it, the full spectrum of humanity, offers us the capacity to find a way through. And that is the foundation of what microjoys are.
Join Cyndie Spiegel at Watchung Booksellers to celebrate the release of MICROJOYS on Thursday, March 9, 2023 at 7 PM. Space is limited, so register today.