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.

Self care is not selfish

The one lesson I seem to have to keep learning, over and over and over and over again: If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t be there to take care of other people. It’s not a crime to take time for myself. A thousand other variations on a theme: Self care is not selfish.

It took thirty freaking years for me to start realizing this, and it has really only sunk in over the past year. I most certainly did not arrive here on my own – the friends who are closest to me (those single-name-in-the-cell-phone friends, the OG ride or die team) have been trying to hammer this through my thick skull for years now.

Apparently I haven’t learned my lesson yet.

I won’t get into details here, but it’s been a real fucker of a week. 99% of the time I feel pretty at peace with the universe, and then a week like this happens, and I just have to take a hot second to shake my fist at the sky and wonder if the powers that be are deliberately malicious jerk-faces, or if someone’s just drunk at the wheel. My constant refrain when things like this happen – and they seem to keep happening, again and again and again, with unfair frequency to the people I care most about in this world. We’re told, in trying times, that God only gives us what we can handle. Well, universe, I either need God to have a little less faith in me, or the dude needs to reevaluate his definition of “handling it.” 

Frankly, y’all, for the past week, I haven’t been handling shit.

I had to send my check in to my trainer today, and I almost skipped it, because I have been a trainwreck for the past nine days. I got some bad news, and then a little more piled on top of that, and then just a bit more for good measure, and all that translated to skipping workouts, eating like shit, sleeping terribly, and letting things slide.

And the thing is, I don’t feel any better. Eating cookies and drinking wine after getting shitty news just translates to a shitty workout the next day. Skipping time at the gym just robs me of an hour that I can throw on some loud music, ignore texts and emails and voicemails, and just be with myself and without my thoughts. Nothing shuts up the voices in my head like heavy plates on the barbell for some back squats or deadlifts.

I am realizing that I need to create more space for myself. I need to give myself permission to indulge in the things that bring me joy and help me to remain centered. Those are the first things to go for me – when I drop everything to try to fix things, I just end up hurting myself in the process. And maybe I made a difference in the short term, but I’m perpetuating a terrible habit.

I want to be the best daughter and friend that I can be. And I can’t be that person if I’m not healthy, and strong, and mentally sound, and I can only be all of those things if I give myself permission to put myself first, at least once a day.

Self care isn’t selfish. If I keep learning the lesson whenever things go wrong – and history shows that things will go wrong, because history repeats itself, and my family doesn’t get a magical pass from that, this I guarantee – then maybe, someday, I’ll actually believe it and the lessons will pay off.