I had a goal recently. It involved joy, and getting more of it. It seemed to be swimming all around me, be it from inspirational messages that found their way into my email inbox, or from religious bumper stickers (Joy is Jesus!) that I began spotting all over town. But I didn’t have enough of it in my own space. There was a joy void going on and I didn’t like it. So hence my goal of trying to find ways to pluck more joy from the air.
This Joy-Search, however, was no simple matter…
Where did it lurk? Was this one of those times when I was going to have to go through a litany of mental exercises and do “homework”, write out how I was feeling, what I was doing when I was feeling whatever it was that I was feeling and then muster up the energy to create a handy-dandy list detailing all the mental mind games I was going to have to play in order to manifest this joy in my daily life? I was not up for that because the way I go about doing mental homework is I get all psyched up for it. I buy a new journal, a new pen and tons of colorful sticky notes to scribble inspirational words, that get placed all over in an effort to change my world, or at least my outlook on my world. But then the next day comes and, truth be told, I just want to make it through the day, joy or no joy. My ancestral instincts come into play and I just want to survive!
In a true effort though to really try to find some genuine joy, I legitimately tried to seek it out.
I read a book about joy. I subscribed to inspirational podcasts. I tried to re-learn Spanish thinking another language would help, somehow. I searched for just the right hobby that could inspire me (pottery making perhaps). I toyed with the idea of volunteering (out of guilt). And I tried decluttering…
Still no joy (not that I truly followed through on ANY of the above tactics—I just tried.)
So when all else fails, I go for a run.
Ah-ha… kind of.
The whole thing started out all wrong. I realized I hadn’t run in years and my body was fighting back every single step of the way. My lungs were confused by the sudden lack of oxygen and didn’t know how to refuel. My side cramped up and felt like it was going to fall out, and my knee-joint was supremely annoyed at the whole endeavor. (When did I get so freaking old?!)
But I don’t give in so easily. I was going to find joy and I needed a run to figure this out.
But then… something inside me told me this was it, this was the way. By running. (By running away I first thought? But I know we can’t run away so…) Run, my mind told me. And then it quickly retracted and thought, “Seriously? THIS is joy? This is a pure disaster!” Ok, well not total joy. It wasn’t the run actually (a totally lame run mind you), but I believe it was the effort to run that made the mental shift.
Let me break it down for you. Here I am with a problem: body vs mind; both not into the run AT ALL, but the mind slightly more willing to give it a go, more so than the body. The challenge: finish 30 minutes of intervals and feel good about it (despite annoyed body). The supreme doubt: But HOW? I can’t even BREATHE! Finding the fortitude: Just shut up and do it! The goal: Finish what you started. And the inevitable success which I knew was mine: Finish strong!
That, my friend, is where my Joy came from (a source or cause of delight , per the dictionary). It wasn’t about making someone else happy, it was about being happy with me. Cheering me on and being proud of what I could accomplish (despite my horrid performance!) Being uncomfortable and working through the discomfort to get to that good place.
So keep your homework, your sticky notes with words meant to inspire; I got my kicks and we’re doing just fine running down joy!