Create your own joy

The world happens around us, every day. It happens around us and sometimes, it happens to us. There are any number of things that are totally outside of our control, and sometimes, those things are pretty terrible.

You know what’s totally within your control? The ability to create your own joy. You can give yourself permission to seek out joy. That’s allowed. It should even be encouraged.

picmonkey-collageI spent the weekend on the Cape, borrowing my cousins’ incredible home for a much-needed break. I took Friday and Monday as work-from-home days so that I could have some time to myself, to get some much-needed mental clarity and peace. For the weekend itself, friends came up from New York and drove down from Boston to spend Halloween in Provincetown. We got to be very stereotypical New England tourists for the day on Saturday, and when night fell, we dressed up in costumes, broke out the booze, and celebrated the holiday in truly ridiculous fashion. It was something of a social experiment, throwing together two separate sets of friends who had never met, but it turned out great and the weekend was a success.

Leaving the Cape yesterday for the long drive back to Boston, I found myself reflecting on how grateful I felt for the past few days – grateful to the family who let me use the house, to the friends who made the journey to the Cape, to the job that gave me the flexibility to work remotely, to the universe for giving us amazing weather. The key, though, is that I didn’t sit around and wait for these things to fall into my lap. I asked whether the house would be free at any point this fall; I asked my friends if they wanted to spend a weekend away. I created space for this weekend to happen.

If I don’t make a conscious effort to create space for joy, then yes, it’s really easy to let everything else overwhelm me. That’s the thing about stress, about exhaustion, about bad news and difficult experiences: they creep, they spread, they entangle you. You can let it happen, or you can do something about it. I’m choosing the latter; I’m choosing to invite in the light.

To that end, I’ve decided to participate in a Daily Gratitude challenge for the month of November. I’ve been using (and loving!) the Day Designer planner printables, and the company sent an email out this morning with a link to their free daily gratitude journal printable. They shared a blog about how to make gratitude a daily habit, and they’re encouraging followers to share their daily reflections on social media with the tag #DDdailygratitude.

joy-gratitude-quoteI’ll be sharing my daily gratitude posts on Instagram at @beingyourchange, and where appropriate I may expand them into a longer post. I’m hoping this will help to keep all of the dark-and-nasties at bay, while keeping me focused on the sources of joy and light in my life.

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Learn to receive

I went on a podcast subscribing spree over the weekend. Lately my podcast habits have heavily skewed toward political content, but the closer we get to the elections, the less I want to listen to media interpretations of the absolute shitstorm that is the country right now. (For the record, I’m With Her.) (If you needed me to tell you that, you haven’t been paying attention.)

I poked around a bit trying to find some podcasts on health and wellness, skewing more toward mental health and wellbeing. I haven’t had much time to settle in with the stack of books sitting on my nightstand, so in the meantime, podcasts on my commute will have to be enough to help me along.

I stumbled across one this morning that felt like it was targeted right at me. The podcast is titled Women Wanting More, and I admittedly haven’t listened to enough to judge whether it will be a permanent addition to my list, but today’s felt perfect. Episode #183 is titled “I Receive This (and Why YOU Should, Too)” and it’s all about how many women struggle to accept, to receive.

When others pay us compliments, we brush them off or respond with a self-deprecating comment. When colleagues ask us if we need help at work, we decline – we’ve got this, even in reality we’re drowning. Friends tell us to reach out if we need anything and we nod, knowing that things would have to be dire indeed before we take them up on the offer, because we will have things under control even if it kills us.

In the podcast, the host, Karen Osburn, encourages us to learn to receive. Have you ever tried to just receive when others want to give? Whether it’s a compliment, an offer of help, a kind word, a gift – what if you just received it and allowed yourself time to enjoy how it feels not to be the one giving?

I’m working on it, and this podcast was a good reminder to be more intentional in how I react when I’m given the opportunity to receive. Give it a listen.

Another mimosa, please.

I spent the long weekend in my favorite place on earth with my favorite people, and I. Am. Exhausted.

Things I learned this weekend:

  1. When you’re out with a friend you don’t get to see very often and you’re ordering wine by the glass, it’s really easy to lose track of how much you’ve had, especially when the bartender has a heavy pour. Then you get the bill and you realize you’ve had a bottle and a half of wine. Each. Whoops.
  2. It has been four and a half years since my last marathon bottomless brunch (an especially memorable visit to Lasagna’s the day of our 5-year college reunion, when they finally kicked us out because the restaurant was flipping over to dinner and apparently that’s when the mimosas stop being bottomless). Turns out 31 is officially too old for bottomless brunch, especially when you approach it as a challenge. “Oh? You’re cutting us off after two hours? I ACCEPT THIS QUEST.” Again. Whoops.
  3. I know a lot of people get into trouble because when they’re drunk they start craving junk food and end up overeating. I am the exact opposite. I completely forgot to feed myself during Saturday’s marathon outing. There were the token breakfast foods consumed alongside the bottomless mimosas, but let’s be honest, those are only there to add an air of legitimacy to the quite frankly inhuman quantities of champagne you’re consuming. And then I forgot to eat anything else. For twelve hours. When we made it to Crif Dogs at 1am I greeted that hot dog like I had never seen food before. Honestly, I’m astounded I didn’t black out in a corner around 4pm. And once again. Whoops.
  4. I decided to stick around the city and drive home on Monday, officially giving “We’re going to watch the debate!” and “Who wants to drive in a hurricane?” as my rationale. The unofficial but very real reason: I fell asleep sitting up at a bar during the Patriots game at 2pm (luckily I remained upright and spared myself the indignity of face-planting into a plate of buffalo wings) and subsequently napped straight through the 4pm games. Driving four hours back to Massachusetts was a non-starter. The drive wasn’t much better on Monday, culminating with me getting pulled over at a toll booth on the Mass Pike (….and getting off with a warning because my last speeding violation was five years ago, almost exactly to the day, also received while on the Mass Pike on a Monday morning driving home from a weekend of NYC ridiculousness – noticing a trend here?) It turns out things that came easily at 24 are just painful at 31. Who knew?

I am in full on recovery mode. I fell asleep at 7pm Monday night after working from home for the afternoon, and I have slept like the dead the past few nights. I’m still dragging myself through my workouts, but I’m definitely not at 100%. And you know what? I don’t regret a single thing. I needed this weekend more than I even realized.

These past few days have really driven home how much your mental state impacts your physical well-being. I’ve been in a pretty dark place for the past month or so; the world has been throwing a lot my way, both at work and at home, and I wasn’t doing a great job of coping and finding balance. It showed up in my attitude, in my energy levels, in my mental health and in my physical well-being. I had no motivation to drag myself to the gym, I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t treating my body well. I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t happy.

img_3237This weekend, I got to spend time with the types of friends who make you remember who you are and where you belong. Living in another city makes me appreciate these friends so much more when I do get to see them, and every time we get together I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have these people in my life. They’re my human reset buttons. And it’s not like we all sat down to have deep, soul-searching conversations about our lives – quite the opposite. We did multiple rounds of pickle back shots, we sang early 2000s pop-punk karaoke, and we sent ridiculous snap chat stories to the friends who couldn’t be there. But that’s what I need. I need to be reminded that I don’t have to be the responsible one all the time.

My life is so much more than my job and my parents and the myriad things that make me feel stressed and pressured and pushed to go, go, go, 24/7. My life is my stories and my experiences. My life should be filled with ridiculousness and irresponsible decisions and silliness and laughter and hugs and joy. It’s about finding balance and this weekend, with these friends, they helped me to tip the scales back in my favor.