Return of Joy

I’ve had quite the whirlwind of a November and while it would take more than one blog post to fully describe it, I want to write about the concept of patience and joy.

Simple and easy! Right?

The summer months were a slow amble for me. Partly in the pleasant way that summer should be, with days dedicated to deciding which body of water to swim in, whether you should reapply sunscreen now, or 10 minutes from now after your fifth dip in the river, and whether ice cream can count as dinner (it can). Partly in the way where you might be waiting for your life to happen.

And that part was kind of big. Like the piece of the pie for the waiting was the piece leftover after you’ve served everyone, but it’s too big for one person to have, but you really, really want to just plop it onto your plate and eat all of it. And then it gives you a tummy ache with repercussions.

So there I was, mostly enjoying the summer, with this big piece of undigested pie looming over me. Ever stating that I was open to solutions, surrendering to “what is”, basking in my intention to be patient. And I was everything but patient. And still I sat with it, mostly settling into accepting it, and slowly but surely moving forward. I was in the Waiting Place, as Dr. Seuss described to a perfect T.

What I surrendered to was the fact that I was not in surrender. I was in uncertainty of the greatest kind; facing a complete shift in my identity and purpose and moving into one of… What exactly? Ah, there was the problem. I was able to casually throw around the word “Coach” before, when not everything was riding on it, when I was trailing that part of my career behind me like a tattered security blanket, but never as the new, tailored suit I wasn’t accustomed to be wearing.

It wasn’t that I doubted my ability, but I had my reservations that others would buy this reinvented version of me. And it wasn’t just that this was a reinvention, I mean, I’ve had a few reinventions over the past 20+ years, this was more of an unveiling of who I really am. I’d fit myself into structures and constructs that weren’t a reflection of me many times. And I think I did it well. To a certain point. Yes, I did it well until I didn’t. And once I didn’t, I couldn’t go through the paces anymore. Anyone else ever feel that way? Like, I can do this! I’ve never done it before, never even considered it, but you know what, I’m eager, I love to learn and I take direction well and I will do it. And you will be happy with me doing it. And then, after a time, it doesn’t fit anymore. And once you realize that it doesn’t fit, you can no longer squeeze yourself into it.

And what is it exactly?

It can be a number of things. It is the job you’re no longer suited to. It is the relationship you can’t be in any longer. It is the home you can’t stand living in. It is the habit that doesn’t bring you pleasure anymore. And so on, and so forth.

It is often the recognition that you are denying yourself joy.

And I mean true joy here. This doesn’t have to be complicated; joy can be found in the simplest things. It can be found in the softness of a pet’s fur, the way the light streams into your bedroom in the morning, the sigh of your baby sleeping, the feel of your partner’s hand resting on your hip in the middle of the night.

I believe endeavours fuelled by joy yield more rewards, as in if you focus more on your ROJ (return of Joy), then you begin to increase your ROI (return on investment), otherwise known as “I want to know that what I take away from this is worth if not more, than at least the equivalent of what I put into it”.

If you focus more on your ROJ (return of Joy), then you begin to increase your ROI (return on investment)

If you focus more on your ROJ (return of Joy), then you begin to increase your ROI (return on investment)

This can easily be misinterpreted as “Follow Your Bliss”. While I definitely think you should pursue things that light you up, practically speaking, it’s not always realistic to say you’re going to live off making moonbeam lanterns for the needy. What it means, in real-life application is, what brings you joy right now?

If the answer is nothing, it’s time to start looking for one thing. One thing that does bring you joy. If work is where you’re struggling to find it, then start there. Maybe you have access to the prettiest post it notes and you’ve created a secret stash so you get the pink ones shaped like stars.

By finding the small things that bring you joy, in whatever environment you’re in, you begin to find bigger things that bring you joy. This is along the lines of  the “Flip Switch” concept from Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting, by Lynn Grabhorn. She recommends that each morning, when you rise, you choose one thing to focus on in a positive light, no matter how small. Maybe it’s that you like your nail colour, the particular shade of blue on the shirt you choose the wear, anything as long as you consciously choose it, and make it your “flip switch”. At any point during the day, when you notice yourself move into a negative headspace, flip the switch and focus on that one thing. All your energy goes into noticing it, and feeling it and allowing yourself to move into a better feeling place. It’s taking steps towards creating joy.

I first used this practice when I was moving through separation. I had post-it notes all over the place; on the sun visor of my car, on my computer monitor, on my bathroom mirror. I felt super silly any time I was asked about them, but it worked. Any time I felt myself spiraling away from joy, I’d see the reminders and re-set my mindset. Sometimes it was really hard! Sometimes all I could muster was gratitude that I had opposable thumbs. But gradually, that began to change. And I felt like the range of emotions that I was functioning within began to expand; rather than just rage, to less rage, to sorrow, and I went into the realm of neutrality, then into bursts of laughter and finally into periods of sustained joy. The other emotions were still present, but I could travel from one to the other with more ease, without being stuck in one awful spot for days at a time.

As the emotional range expanded, so did the rest of my life. I got jobs that increased in pay, moved to homes that met my list of wants and needs. If I were to put the quality of life on a graph, it would be moving in an increasingly upward direction. But I’m not super into graphs, so I’m not going to do that.

So back to my slow amble through the summer, and thinking about how I was going to be both fuelled by joy, and bring my coaching services into the fray with a commitment that hadn’t been there before. It took patience. Step by step, I kept track of the underlying current of where my state was on a daily basis. Every day I looked for one thing that brought me joy. And there were days that I was sure I was full of shit. Some of those days were back to back to back. But, within each of those days, I had the full range of states at my disposal. This concept doesn’t mean you are going to be joyful all the time. What it does mean, is that your return to joy, or your bounce-back, will be better and better each time.

And I have bounced back! In the full swing of coaching, loving each client call, each new person I get to work with. I have an abundance of joyful moments to flip the switch on. I am filled with appreciation for the forced wait, the patience that I grudgingly accepted and the encouragement I was given along the way.