The call to joy has pursued me with abandon recently. Messages from all sides bombard me with reminders of a need to release control and fear and live in joy. Leaders, advisors, friends, teachers, acquaintances…. all have made fleeting comments that land in that certain place in my mind where the deep stuff happens.
There is a picture in one of the many spaces where I meet with clients about joy. I couldn’t tell you what it says. I don’t know that I’ve actually read it and its always behind me if I am using that space. A few days ago, a client stopped our session mid-sentence to point it out. There it was again, the reminder that my life’s work right now is to find joy.
I have always seen joy as something that needs to be worked for. But then again, my pattern has always been working hard for the things I want the most. The work makes me cherish those things more. It’s the constant cycle of having to deserve good things. The ingrained belief that I have to feel the pain of earning to have the honor of fleeting pleasure. As I’ve found in so many other areas of life, I have been very wrong. Being wrong makes me panic.
What dawns on me today is that the little morsel of panic that I carry around with me is the roadblock to the message of joy being thrown at me. When faced with something sweet and good, I panic. I panic that it isn’t really for me, I panic that I don’t deserve it, I panic that I won’t appreciate it in the right way, I panic that it will leave too soon. For me, a little bit of pleasure is always accompanied by a little bit of pain. That expectation alone is manifesting a reality that keeps me reeling.
I am in the midst of a break. I refused to allow myself to rest and it resulted in a full body and mind shut down that lasted for more than a week. I could not work, I could not go to therapy, I could not spend time with friends, and I could not possibly bring myself to learn another damn thing about myself. I have fought feelings of guilt about that for awhile now. I want to do it all and do it well. But this weekend, I’ve done a whole lot of nothing. Somehow, that nothing is more than I’ve done in a long time.
I woke up today content in the nothingness. I have no obligations; everything is technically caught up. I have no major goal to race towards; I’m in the living and waiting part of life. It’s after noon and I’ve yet to get dressed, yet to hit the yoga mat, yet to work out, yet to even shower. Instead, I’ve blissfully done nothing. In that nothingness I found joy.
I’m sitting in a bed that I’m blessed to sleep in, in comfortable pajamas bought for me with love, drinking coffee made just the way I like it, burning sweet incense that grounds me, listening to beautiful instrumental music played by people so talented it brings tears to my eyes, reading a book that makes me hear race, diffusing the oils that connect me to the deepest parts of myself, and I’m smiling. It isn’t just the benign smile of having a good day. It is rooted deep in my being; a measure of true joy and pleasure. There is power in the knowledge that I deserve this and it has been here all along.
Joy is not something I have to race for. I don’t have to work myself until I break to hope that joy will pick me back up. I just have to stop. To truly see. To really feel. I am content. I have all that I need. I don’t have all I will ever want, and when the time comes, I am more than capable of more work to get to that next level. And when I get there, I will be content again. There is joy in every part of that journey. In the work that gets me there, in the plateau that lets me regulate, in the pain that solidifies the lessons, and in the beautiful fear of something new.
I don’t have to go looking for joy, and it does not have to come find me. This is joy. I am joy. She was here all along.