The Must Have “Look” For This Fall: Joy (And How To Wear It)

Since my last post I’ve been doing a lot of intense soul-searching. I’m sure this is shocking to most of my readers…

As I suspected, the intense sorrow I was feeling on Sunday passed and by Monday I was feeling more grounded and less bleak. Everyone has their demons and faces darkness occasionally; I’m trying to face mine head-on and deal with them. I’ve learned the hard way that repression has ugly consequences.

I posted a video of a poetry slam a few weeks ago, by a poet named Katie Makkai. She talked about women knowing how to find the right cocktail dress, but not having a clue how to wear joy. So I started wondering…

Do I know how to wear joy?

Of course there are moments I feel joyful, but too often I get bogged down in the day to day monotony of life and the list of “should’s” that runs through my mind constantly. I “should” have a spotless house. I “should” be feeding my children home-cooked, organic food for every single meal. I “should” look a certain way. I “should” be socializing more, or taking a class, or doing more spiritual reading, or doing more yoga, or dating, or not dating. I “should” train for and run a marathon (despite the fact that I despise running). I “should” definitely be doing all those cutesy crafty things with my children that I see other mothers doing.

The list of things I beat myself up with is endless. While all of those things I listed are things that matter to me to some degree, why do I allow the times when I’m not doing them as fully as I want to drain me of my joy?

Of course, there is my biggest joy zapper: The trials and tribulations of dating and relationships. The worry and time I’ve put into that particular aspect of my life is ridiculous.

So, I’ve started putting some simple changes into place in an attempt to learn how to wear joy.

  1. When people ask me how I am, I’m going to respond positively. I’m going to stop giving vocal confirmation to anything negative going on in my life. This isn’t to say I plan to be fake. For most people the question is a rote greeting to which they expect a rote reply. To give a negative response might prompt people to view me as a negative person, thus affecting how they treat me, which influences how I feel and perpetuates a cycle. If I have a situation going on in my life,  I might choose to reveal it to close friends and family, but my standard reply is going to be positive instead of “Okay, I guess” or “Tired”.
  2. I’m going to be kind and compassionate to myself, not just to other people. In an ideal world I would have a spotless, organized house; I would be Jamie Oliver (only organic!) in the kitchen for every meal. I’d work out six times a week and eat salmon and salad constantly. I’d read Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra for my recreational reading (instead of trashy vampire novels) and meditate daily. I wouldn’t drink as much wine and I would take my vitamins faithfully. However, I don’t live in my ideal world. My reality is a full-time job throughout the week and a small job every Sunday morning, two kids, 3 pets, a house, a yard, a car and a lot of evolving I’m still trying to do as a person. If my kids eat fast food once in awhile because I’m exhausted at the end of my work day, so be it. If my brain is numb and all I can manage after the kids go to bed is sitting on the couch, drinking wine and reading some version of “50 Shades of Fucked Up”, the world will still go on spinning. If I decide to sit and read with my kids, or watch a movie with them, or just be a mom instead of a domestic whirling dervish, I don’t think my kids will look back in twenty years and think “Mom was such a failure! She should have cleaned house more!” If I let them watch tv throughout the school week (a big no-no) sometimes, it really won’t impede their progress substantially. Allowing myself to occasionally just be “good enough” rather than beating myself up over not being perfect WILL make a big difference in my current happiness.
  3. I will make the time to do things that make me feel good. I’ve been exercising at least five times a week. If my children are starving (which they always are), I make them a snack and then I take 30 minutes to work out before I plunge into the flow of the evening. When I’m done, I feel more energized mentally and physically. I am trying to walk my dog more: I feel good about it and he is definitely more joyful. I am making time to write, which helps me feel more like a creative, beautiful human being. I am taking longer to cuddle my kids at night. When they ask me to stop my work and come see a drawing, hear a song, give them a hug: I do it. So often in the past, I have felt like a tiny cog in the machine of life. No more. I WILL do the things that are important to me.
  4. I will behave like I am the prize. So often when it has come to love, I have been willing to bend over backwards so the other person will love me. I’ve always believed that if I am constantly willing to accomodate their schedule, not make a fuss if they disappoint me by not keeping their promises, be sweet and giving at almost all times and be LOW DRAMA AND LOW STRESS, that somehow I’ll be viewed as the ultimate girlfriend. By doing that, I was relegating myself to a position of less worth than the man I was involved with. Why? Because if I inconvenienced them, they might stop loving me…or never love me at all. I’m done bending over backwards (sexual positions not included in that blanket statement). I AM a prize and I deserve to be treated like one, the same as I would (and have in the past) treat a great guy like a prize. My behavior needs to underscore that reality. I don’t need a relationship to be beautiful or sexy. I don’t need a man to fulfill or complete me. Yes, one day I want a relationship. The quality man who can bring his best self and win my heart, mind and body will find me one day. He will shake his head in bemusement that the other men let me slip through their fingers. Every single time he wraps his arms around me, kisses me, makes love to me, he’ll feel lucky. When we share our day, inspire each other and celebrate our successes, he’ll know I was worth the wait. When I can forgive his mistakes (and my own) and make life easier, not harder, he’ll know I’m the best woman for him. In return I will give him all the pleasures of my mind, heart and body. Not because I can’t live without him or could never be happy on my own. It will be because he makes my wonderful life even more wonderful.  While this man makes his way to me, I’ll be working on making sure I never put the burden of fulfillment, happiness or joy on any relationship. I’m going to make sure that responsibility rests squarely where it needs to: Upon me. Until then, I’ll be living my life with joy!
  5. I will wear my joy openly, so that others can see it and feel joyful. I’m going to work harder on smiling at people. Happiness is contagious; who doesn’t love to see a smiling person? Letting my laughter ring out frequently is one of my new goals. Even if I’m having a crap day, I’m going to try to get out of my head and offer up my best self.
  6. Practice gratitude daily. Every day I will pick at least three things I am grateful for. If I can do that, it will make goals 1-5 feel easier. I have a tremendous amount of beauty and goodness in my life. It’s time to focus on them!
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