La joie de vivre

le-fabuleux-destin-d-amelie-poulainA funny thing has happened in France since the Paris attacks.

The French are rediscovering their joie de vivre. Not just because joy is what makes life worth living but as a defining principle. Finding joy in the little things is what makes us who we are. Sitting at a table of an outdoor café, that most quintessentially French thing to do, has become an act of defiance.

It’s a reawakening of sorts. An awareness of what is important, the values we share and the fragile nature of life itself. It is made all the more poignant by the fear that is in people’s hearts. France is in the throes of collective post-traumatic stress syndrome.

At the same time, there is a sense of resilience. That somehow, in adversity, we will be stronger. Perhaps it won’t last. But I get the feeling that a page has been turned and that, as much as people are afraid and that their ‘insouciance’ has been lost or at least compromised, there is on another level a renewed appreciation of the things we share.

We are seeing it in the brave letters from people who have lost loved ones or been touched in some way by the terror. It is a refusal to give in, to change, to let go of one iota of what makes us who we are. We owe it to all those whose lives were tragically cut short on that fateful Friday night in November.

It has occurred to me that lately I have neglected to put enough joie into my vivre. This is going to change. I know the things that bring me joy. Singing. Jumping. Snow. Creating. Moments of peace and solitude. From now on, those things will take a higher place on my list. While I’m at it, I might just tear that list into pieces and toss it on the fire.

Amélie stole our hearts with her naïve sense of joy and wonder in the world. May we all feel it, today and every day that is given to us.

What brings you joy?


  1. poshbirdy · November 26, 2015

    Amelie is a lovely film. Totally enchanting and we should all watch it again. Vive la Resilience!!

    • MELewis · November 26, 2015

      Just watching the clip made me realize how much I’d loved Amélie. At times like this, we need her more than ever. Merci!

  2. coteetcampagne · November 26, 2015

    I love this piece: I have felt a renewed spirit in France since the Charlie Hebdo attack- French people we know are reaffirming their sense of patrimoine & joie de vivre..only strengthened further by this latest situation.
    The French pride and their sensibility, not only of “self” but of country,culture and place in the world has always impressed me.

    • MELewis · November 26, 2015

      Thanks for your thoughts. I am heartened to know to see the wave of shared pride grow, and at least in our parts, without a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments. Who would have thought that something so awful could have an upside?

  3. Suzanne et Pierre · November 26, 2015

    Thanks for these words. I am glad to hear that the French are thinking about their “joie de vivre” in this difficult time. Succumbing to fear would be playing into the hands of the terrorist. Good luck with adding your little pieces of joie in your life! (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · November 26, 2015

      Thanks, Suzanne. The thought is there and people are beginning to feel that perhaps the worst is past…yet reports are that the stores are empty, people are staying home. I don’t live in the Paris area so perhaps it’s easier for us here in province. It’s easy to get caught up in our lives and forget to enjoy the little things. I am determined to change that!

  4. aimeecartier · November 26, 2015

    Lovely. I feel these days lately as such a potent time. So much of all the human emotions running through these human veins. There is deep grief and great joy. All. Thank goodness for joy though! And I look forward to hearing about how you’re getting yours back into vivre! All my love,

    • MELewis · November 27, 2015

      Merci Aimée! It’s strange but as you say in these emotional times, the greater the darkness, the more we seem to feel the joy. I’ll keep you posted on my progress! Bises xo

  5. davidprosser · November 27, 2015

    I’m so glad the French people are proving resilient. No matter what these thieves of life throw at us, we can’t bend to their way or cower in the shadows.
    The recovered joie de vivre will be the most damaging thing to the fanatics who depend on the fear they generate to create the image of an ogre to thrreaten the West as well as it’s own people with it’s savagery.
    Well done Parisians, well done France.
    Mel your joie de vivre has never been in doubt. You lift people with your posts.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · November 29, 2015

      The joy is there, David, when I read comments like yours. So full of understanding for what we have been going through in France, and empathy for the world we share. Mille mercis mon ami! 🙂

  6. roughwighting · November 27, 2015

    Life is only worth living if we add much joie to our vivre, for sure. Thanks for reminding us all of the importance of that.

    • MELewis · November 29, 2015

      Thank YOU for reading and sharing your support!

  7. Osyth · November 28, 2015

    Perfectly positioned piece for which I thank you. I spend Tuesday and Wednesday with my number three daughter and she told me that a friend of hers, whenever she has a bad day, spends her last minutes before sleep going over what went wrong and asking herself what she can do better tomorrow. I have now adopted this strategy. It is a simple reminder that life should be good and that it is a simple adjustment of self that can make the difference. Amelie remains my idol – I hope I can get a bit closer to being her twin separated at birth the enormous age gap 🙂

    • MELewis · November 29, 2015

      Sounds like a great idea. I am all for the little mind hacks that make a big difference. We all have good days and bad days and part of the exercise is changing what we can while letting the rest go. Glad you enjoyed – and I am sure you’d make a fabulous Amélie!

  8. memoirsofahusk · November 28, 2015

    Ah – Amelie. Such a lovely film. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

    • MELewis · November 29, 2015

      You are most welcome! Few are the characters from films that really stay with us. It was a French journalist that mentioned Amélie in the context of ‘la joie de vivre’ and I was also happy to rediscover her!

  9. Food,Photography & France · November 29, 2015

    Loved that film….I love so much French cinema and always have..France definitely fills me with joy:)

    • MELewis · November 30, 2015

      Thanks for sharing that sentiment. 🙂

  10. acflory · November 30, 2015


  11. Mél@nie · November 30, 2015

    la joie de vivre is ageless, but sometimes it is or appears to be “silent”… to me, it turns complete whenever shared with my close and loved ones… I can’t imagine it as an object, hidden inside a strongbox, even though it’s as precious as a rare pearl or a priceless treasure… along our lifetime, unavoidable gray clouds or thorns show up now and then, and generate negative thoughts, and obviously, the ideal thing would be to stay away from them or to push them aside immediately, as they may “spoil” our joy… how? by hoping that the near future will bring us other joys which would not exist without fortuitous barriers or unexpected obstacles… let’s make the most of the slightest joy and let’s grow it to be able to collect some more with the same delight… I think the deepest joy is the pleasant surprise of being alive, and btw, let’s save a few smiles for joyless days… 🙂
    * * *
    I loved Amélie Poulain… ❤ la comptine d’un autre été, composée par Yann Tiersen pour ce film-culte…

    • MELewis · November 30, 2015

      I agree with you, Mél@nie…it is important to accept the joy of just being alive but sometimes it’s okay to let the clouds in. It’s funny that we pursue happiness and joy like tangible ‘things’ that can be caught while their essence is so ephemeral and impossible to define. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and the Amélie link, always a pleasure! Bises xo

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