For two mornings in a row back in February I woke up ridiculously happy. Wedged between two pillows that mysteriously migrated to cuddle me during both nights, I felt safe and held in the limitless love of the Universe. I woke each day gifted with the feeling of being deeply loved that I’d longed for my entire life. What’s astonishing is that it was coming from thin air.
And then, my long term relationship ended.
It had been coming for a while, and it wasn’t a big surprise, but it packed a punch in my sustainable joy department.
And the thing is, I’m kind of mad about it. Finally I was in a place where the happiness was sustainable — only to have it pulled out from under me.
My grieving process for the first few weeks took the form of anger and extreme busy-ness. I was unable to feel much joy during that time. And I was mad about being mad, you know?
As the days went on, I fell right back into worry, fear, exhaustion, and a kind of emotional contraction. My heart, like the Grinch’s, felt 3 sizes too small.
But then today — a miracle! After weeks of aggressive self care, I woke this morning feeling better. I greeted the morning with more of a “yayyyy” than an “oh no….”.
I hesitate to use the word aggressive, because it’s a strong word with some unpleasant associations. But it’s the only way to describe what I practice:
o I diligently defend my alone time several evenings a week and on weekends.
o I turn off my phone for a few hours before bed.
o I schedule monthly massages, health care appointments, and give myself mani/pedis.
o I go to concerts and only spend time with the friends who nourish me (and vice versa).
o I meditate, eat right, drink plenty of water, exercise. I get enough sleep.
o I plan time to do nothing productive each day.
This is a huge change for me from a life where I was always busy doing something and caring for everyone else. I hit bottom on that path a couple of times, falling into a state where I had so much anxiety or became so ill I couldn’t get out of bed. One time was when my son was a year old and I’d gone a year without a full night’s sleep. Another was during graduate school while preparing for oral exams. Somewhere along the way I finally realized that I was making myself busy to avoid feeling my sadness and grief about my life — and I had a lot of it.
I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say I’m no stranger to grief and loss and all the stresses of daily life. My life is no less stressful now — my son is 16, and I’m working full time in a job where I counsel people all day long, sometimes people in dire straits. What’s different is that I make time for myself. I allow myself to experience my feelings for a short time each day. I get support from some amazing friends and mentors when I need it. And I’ve discovered that the uncomfortable feelings pass more quickly if I just take some time to sit with them and say “hello friend, what do you want me to know today?”. Once they’ve been heard, they seem to feel free to go on their way and leave me in peace.
I guess you could say that I’ve finally allowed myself to be happy. I say no to things I don’t want to do. It’s part of my self care not to overcommit, which means I have to let go of some things. I have finally learned that I need time to do nothing each day.
With this new attitude, my goals for this year are simple. I want to get a cat. I want to make friends with my couch. Maybe this year I will even take up riding horses again, since my new home is located about 2 minutes from a local stable.
For now I’m sustaining my joy by caring for myself, by doing meaningful work, and allowing time for satisfying play. Bit by bit, I’m continuing to create a life that I love.
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If you’d like more help with sustaining joy, I have a couple of other ways to support you. The first is the Shamanic Clarity and Balance e-course. If you’d prefer one-on-one support, you can click here for a free phone consultation with me.