Why Joy?

I talk about JOY a lot.

JOY alphabet blocks in my studio are a daily reminder to choose joy

The word is up there in my logo. It write about it in my blog posts. I describe my paintings with the word and when you sign up for my newsletter I send you a set of Joy and Gratitude Lists as a thank you. On top of that, I call my newsletter a JOYLetter.

Lately on Instagram I’ve been making a point of sharing Joy Lists on Mondays for #joylistmonday.

Maybe you’re wondering, what’s up with that? Is Anne’s life so much more joyful than anyone else’s? Is she delusional?

No. And no.

I truly believe that joy is a choice.

Of course the world is filled with so much that isn’t joyful. There’s ugliness. There’s cruelty. Hate. Death. Disease. I could go on and on creating long anti-joy lists. And some days when I’m in a crabby mood it’s tempting to lay out all that’s bringing me down, but I think that focusing on the ugliness is harmful*. To us and to those around us.

In 2010 I needed a change. I took a big leap, but things didn’t work out. A year later my life was in shambles. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. We’d lost our beloved cat and dog. My marriage was failing. I had no job. It was a terribly dark time. Even just thinking about those days makes my heart hurt.

During a time of darkness I searched for hope and began writing joy lists

I was so unhappy. Bereft. Teetering on hopelessness. Each day was a struggle. And yet, I didn’t want to be unhappy. I didn’t want the lens through which I saw the world to be one of darkness.

As a way to combat my hopelessness I started writing Joy Lists.

my first Joy List, written in December of 2011

my first Joy List, written in December of 2011

Perhaps it sounds silly, but it helped me to get through my days. By writing my Joy Lists, by looking around my world for beauty and with gratitude, my focus changed.

My life changed, too. It took time and it took work. The biggest change, I think was within me. I began to understand that joy and fulfillment need to come from inside. I learned that I can craft my world into something beautiful and that I can survive all sorts of difficulties.

During that time I threw myself into art-making. Learning. Experimenting. Making. Gardening. Cooking. Later those things helped me through even more challenges and heartache. A two-year struggle to sell a house we no longer lived in. Matthias’s cancer. Unemployment. Uncertainty.

Life is never without struggle. Disappointment. Frustration. Heartbreak. And yet life is also never without beauty and joy.

My days are happier now, but my focus hasn’t changed. Beauty. Joy. Art.

A Botanical Watercolor Illustration of a Clematis Flower Painted by Anne Butera

Writing joy and gratitude lists is transformative. Opening our eyes to the magic of the natural world, of the wonder of human creativity will change our lives.

It changed mine.

I don’t know what your situation is. If you’re struggling with big challenges, heartsick for the state of our planet or overwhelmed with the day-to-day hustle and bustle, but I do know that you can find joy in even the darkest days. By slowing down. By being present. By being aware of and receptive to all of the beauty that surrounds you each day.

My intention here, with my blog, my JoyLetters and my art is to help you to see life’s beauty. I hope to bring a glimmer of joy into your days.

Thank you for being here.

P.S. If you or someone you know are struggling with something you can’t handle on your own , there are people who can help. These are just a few of the many organizations that can:


*Focusing on the ugliness of the world is harmful if we’re doing so in a complaining, bemoaning way. If our focus spurs us to take action against the ugliness it can be beneficial.