I talk a lot about joy here. About finding a way to do things with ease. With less struggle. Less chafing against what is and more embracing of what is. Even celebrating what is. It’s been so powerful for me to practice this daily. But, um, NEWS FLASH: it’s really hard to find joy when you are sad or stressed or worried or scared. It’s difficult to scan your body while wracked with sadness and see if you can find a little room for joy. It’s tough to see where you might find a little softness and pleasure in a week of work stress or big financial woes or a serious disagreement with a loved one.
You cannot just double-tap on a dozen fluffy Instagram quotes about joy and get there. It’s an active practice that I’ve found more challenging than meditation or even my decade-long daily Ashtanga practice (abandoned long ago after craving more creativity and flow in my daily movement). BUT! It is worth it. I encourage you to try it, to somehow find a way to hold both the dark and the light in your heart at the same time. Always scanning for “where can I add lightness here, where can I insert a little joy, is there a little sliver of room for some ease or maybe even pleasure even while I’m working through this thing that feels like it might crush me.”
I’ve struggled all weekend to find that lightness. I keep finding chest tightness instead. Yet I scanned and scanned: how can I find ease here? How can I notice the light in my kitchen that is stunning? How can I take pleasure in the just so textures of rocks collected on my last hike? Could I maybe just read for an hour in bed in the middle of a day? Yes. Yes. Yes. And no one thing did the trick. No one moment of pleasure or tiny joy dissolved the knot in my chest and the tension in my shoulders. But little by little, the active choosing of joy in dozens of moments across two days reduced the ick to a manageable size. It’s still there. I acknowledge its existence, but I’m ever in pursuit of yet more magic. Try to find a few slivers of joy (and if joy feels like a tall order right now, try ease — less resistance to something) in your day each day this week and let me know what shifts.
Two weeks ago, I took a trip to Mammoth Lakes to spend some time in nature as I work on healing (always) and self-care and you know how much I believe nature is a salve for so much of what we need as #ACoAs.
On a hike around my fave lake, I noticed men fishing in groups with their friends. Every time I saw one of them, I thought: that looks like such fun.
Around the lake for several miles, I kept noting these men fishing. And how familiar it all felt. And it finally hit me that – of course! – I grew up fly-fishing with my stepfather. We would go backpacking for weeks as a family in the summer and we would fly fish for our meals. It’s beautiful to watch someone cast while wading out into a stream. It’s fascinating to see how intricately designed the flies are before used. And the places where fly-fishing is most effective are stunning. But you know what’s not beautiful, fascinating or stunning? Forcing your 12 year old to catch her meal fly-fishing and yelling at her every time she made a mistake. Or scared the fish by being too loud. Or begged to eat something else if she couldn’t catch enough.
It hit me all at once while hiking around that lake as I watched all these men fish in groups, relaxed and smiling: it was NEVER fun because my stepfather made it so intense. And I never felt good enough and always a disappointment and so somehow learned that in order to be loved, there had to be struggle. And, of course, he drank wine from a bota bag at all times while out in the stream/creek/river.
So it was a mixed bag, this hike around the lake two weeks ago. I saw this fishing and my childhood came rushing back. And I saw something that should have been so wonderful – so fun and easy – was something to endure with a forced smile just to be “loved” while growing up. And so I resolved right then and there: how do I lean all the way into FUN and EASE in a way that I could not in my childhood? How can we shed what we grew up in and make something new for ourselves that feels light and joyful? How can we shed some old habits and beliefs that to be loved we must endure yelling and being made to feel not enough?
Realizing you grew up with an alcoholic and how that affected you is big, emotional stuff. And it’s the most important work you can do to understand yourself and the reasons you interact with others in such a specific way. But also: it’s big work. Work that takes time. Work that requires you to be oh so kind to yourself in the process. Also? You are doing the work. You are sorting and sifting and healing. So allow a little lightness in. A little play. Where can you give yourself over to a bit of fun today? To laughter? Where can you find a little ease and sink in to it? The work is here and we are getting it done together. But wouldn’t it feel nice to smile big today and really mean it? Seek out a little joy today and let me know what you found. I’ll do the same.