A while back I enforced the “no screens, big or small, in the bedroom” rule. I dug out the alarm clock, that we usually keep in the spare room for guests, plugged it and low and behold…no more need for my cell phone to wake me up in the morning…or the middle of the night!
Recently I moved my bedroom around, something I tend to do in the spring when I get the itch for change…And when I did, I must have hit the radio dial and changed the station, because when my alarm went off the next morning, all I heard was loud very high-pitched static instead of the barely audible sound, but clearly music, from some random station. I rolled towards the bedside table and began to scroll through the stations, desperate to find anything that didn’t remind me of nails on chalkboard. And there, in the warm glow of the clock light, I sensed a moment of pure joy.
I realized, that just like my ability to change the frequency of my radio, from static to something pleasurable, I can choose to change my own frequency, how I experience the world, from one of ear-piercing static, to one of pure magic and joy.
Joy is a topic I have been exploring and working to create a deeper understanding of. Often I wonder if joy really is state of mind or something more? Regardless of what joy is or isn’t I knew I wanted it. For a long time, I have known that I no longer wanted to be led around by the nose by the “shoulds” and the expectations of others. And without the “shoulds” I wasn’t sure what I was to do? If there were no “shoulds” then what? What compass could I follow? What direction would be the right one? All of them? None of them?
I sensed that I knew. I knew that I had been following something, I had simply yet to name or really understand it. I had been putting my attention on what I wanted. I even found myself individually labeling every want so that I could go after “all the things”…and after awhile it became exhausting and resembled very much what I was trying to get away from…a list of to-dos for happiness. I knew I needed to shift my thinking again… (being happy shouldn’t be this hard).
So what then?
What was I doing? I was done with pushing away from the shit. I wanted to move towards something. Something bigger then just “things that made me happy”. More than purpose, I wanted to focus on a power that could pull me, propel me forward. Something I could count on, that would be with me through all of my evolution. (Psst its joy)
More than about doing things that make me happy, which I still do. I wanted a life that honored my values and would hold me when shit got real…(and it did!) One that I could trust to have my back and lift me up when I failed…(which I did!) You see, there is no happiness is failing…I wanted a life that brought me…well… joy through it all…especially when I failed. A state of joy that could be ever-present through all the moments of my life. Waiting out the storms and breaking through the clouds like the rays of light I used to think were hands of those that had gone before, reaching out to lift me up. Joy. My reason, my ikigai, my driver, my force, my ME. I wanted to be the one who not only survived the shit but thrived through it!
Joy…the opposite of numb.
The lens, filter, perspective fueled by gratitude. A choice. I believe happiness is one of the few human emotions that we are born with. Joy is one we get to choose. It requires context and meaning of which we create. A good cup of coffee can make me happy, appreciating that cup of coffee, the time I have to drink it, the money I have to pay for it, the memories elicited when I smell it brewing, the reminder that I am the “world’s best mom”…these thoughts, this context is what creates my joy. Happiness is fleeting, joy is a choice.
Why do we like to pair up certain activities? Tea and a good book, wine and good conversation, driving and loud music…because it not only makes us happy…it brings us joy…why? Because we decided that it does. Can I read with out a cup of tea? Yes…and I would prefer to have the tea…it just makes it feel better. Can I drive without the music blaring? Yes and I would prefer to roll down the windows and share my love for music with the world…it just feels better. We know what feels good. And we often don’t realize that we, at some point in our lives decided that it does.
What if we could create the feeling, tap into the feeling, of joy without having to have everything just right? Can we chunk up to the higher meaning of a moment, the grander context of an experience and overlay that onto the rest of our lives? Can we view our lives through the lens of joy and believe to see things differently? Not rose-colored glasses…not the power of positive thinking or willing your life into being perched on your sit bones. It’s about creating the right context and your why.
It’s not about ignoring negativity or pain it is about contextualizing it, reframing it to serve our highest good. Our greatest desire. Our overarching want…joy. I can not be happy all the time. There are many things happening in and around my life that do not make me happy. However I can choose to contextualize my experiences to maximize the amount of joy that I feel. I can always find something to be grateful for. Not to negate the suffering in the world or turn my back on injustice or malice, but to choose to keep myself full and aligned with what matters most to me. By centering my actions around my core values and applying a state of joy as the greater context for my thoughts, actions and behaviors, so that they have a place to go, I have something to move towards.
Joy is a choice.
Gratitude is the practice we partake in to create the joy we choose to want. We each experience life through our own personal lens of perspective. Perspective created by the meaning we have attributed to our experiences. Our memories rush in and flood our minds, fill the gaps and help to give meaning to the world around us. And memories like all things in our minds are driven by the emotion and context we give them. So the meaning we make of our current existence is created by our perspective, which is fueled by our experiences, which are made up of our memories.
The choice lies in the context and meaning we give to each thought, each memory as it appears. And the fluidity of this, the flexibility we have, is in the re-remembering and new meaning and new context we can give our memories, our experiences, our perspective acquired by the act of living. Once new context is applied, it is like learning, it can not be undone. We can re-contextualize again and again and we can never go back to the meaning that once was. As new life is breathed in, it is, we are, forever changed.
This is our superpower, the power of choice. The power to decide how we experience our experiences and therefore how we get to be and who we are. This decision to view life through the filter of joy served me very well this week.
Choosing JOY…even though it felt impossible
Early in the week I was faced a fairly complex decision, that ultimately would impact the entire course of my life. And the minute I chose to follow my heart, leave my good on paper job and pour myself into work that lights up every part of me, 1 more obstacle showed up in front of me. I was forced me to re-think my decision and ultimately chose to remain in a job I don’t absolutely love, in order to ensure my family could manage financially.
I started out being very, very angry. Angry at my employer (which is not a person but a large organization), angry at myself for allowing myself to get stuck again. Angry at my responsibilities and obligations. Angry that things aren’t “easier”. And after an hour or so of feeling all the feelings and letting them settle, I realized that holding on to my anger does not serve me. Although anger was warranted at the time, carrying it with me and overlaying it onto my future experiences, would not serve my highest good, my greatest desire to feel joy.
Choosing to focus my attention on feeling more joy, did not negate my anger, it simply put it to rest. It had served it’s purpose and was no longer needed. By altering my emotions about my decision, I almost instantly could see the greater purpose for this path. I knew to trust in what lay before me and see it as an opportunity for growth. I realized that a decision made in haste, without all the information, no matter how good it seemed, would lead me on a path not meant for me. When we get stuck feeling feelings that don’t serve our highest good, because we want to feel something and have yet to give intention and direction to our emotions, we are not honoring who we are truly meant to be.
I wonder if joy was your intention, would that change your perspective, your memories, the context of your experiences?
Be brave my friend, choose joy.
Choose to step out of the dark and lift your eyes to see a greater meaning, context, purpose of your experiences, your life. And when it is not clear, trust that a greater meaning exists and choose to see the evidence of it everyday. The mindset of joy is a choice. One that is made every day as we recontextualize and reframe our thoughts, experiences, actions and behaviors.
What will you choose?