In closing out my last series about struggle, grief, and, and strength I intentionally wanted to write about authentic joy. I wanted to experience and provide an example about how joy can be found anywhere and anytime. Even through hard times. I know that joy is our birthright, I tell this to my sons through my journals all the time. Yet, when it comes to myself, I struggle to honor that truth.
Planning for Authentic Joy
This weekend I did what any recovering over functioning person would do; I crafted the perfect “joy!” day followed by my plans crashing and burning. Over the weekend I kept thinking, “I can make this so much better, I can do joy.” I did everything I could. I invited my sister and her girls over to make homemade pizzas in the middle of the farm yard then did clean up on the first warm day. Warm weather, sweet cousins, boys running, my dad… Perfect right? So much joy to tell you about! But did I mention that between my sister and I we have four children 3 and under? They are very cute but have minds all their own and fast little feet.
Henry wanted to be outside badly with Grandpa and Dametrius but Grandpa was working and couldn’t watch the kids. Declan has figured out his legs are long enough to drive the dinosaur jeep but hasn’t figured out how to steer the dinosaur jeep. My sister brought the girls in their glitter shoes. Gracie was wearing a white shirt. Mud was everywhere. My sister and I tried to get the kids to play inside, which totally didn’t happen. First warm day, remember? So we ended up chasing four children through the mud until I broke down and said, “who wants to watch TV while Aunt Jessie makes pizza?” We sat their little butts down, I still made pizza (perfect day remember?) and then my sister and I crashed. The kids might have had a joyful day, the grownups did not. This is not authentic joy, it’s the Kool Aid we’ve all been drinking.
I was upset with myself for a bit because I know better. I know not to get into perfect planning, I know I can’t juggle a ton right now, and I know how the day looks isn’t as important as how it feels. Yet I’m a woman who was recovering from human-giver syndrome (read Burnout to learn more) and went into default mode. I could have beat myself up, but instead gave myself grace. I took some deep breaths, started a new show on Netflix, and decided to have a reset Sunday. That’s when I got back to real joy.
What is Authentic Joy?
So what is authentic joy and why is it so hard to come by? Authentic joy lives inside of us, it’s what makes us all uniquely happy. Just like the worth we are all born with, joy is inside each of us, not where society tells us. My children show me authentic joy every single day. They find what brings them laughter and go after it with no regard for ‘what people think of them.’ I want this for them. Always. No matter how weird it is (Declan….). But now, at 34 years old, I want this for me too. I wish I had always wanted it but there is no use going back. Moving forward into joy is the only way.
Every year at New Years I write myself a letter with my dreams for the new year and gratitude for the past year. I then leave the letter under a jar for and don’t touch it for the next 12 months. This year I decided my dream for myself was to be selfish. I haven’t been selfish, not ever. I have always been willing to give up what I want and have for someone else. While there is an absolute time for selflessness, that time can’t be all the time. For me for it was. I know a lot of women and some men who struggle with the same. So my question to myself were along the lines of “will I be less selfless if I’m selfish?” I was curious but also in deep need of self-love and care.
I want to pause for a minute and speak to my readers. If you are a person who has deep wants but believes it’s OK to take from others or hurt others this message is not for you. You are being selfish to gain for yourself at the cost of someone else, something that is never OK. For everyone else, we need you to be selfish because through your reclaiming of joy those hurting you or others will be held accountable.
Selfishness, Selflessness, & Authentic Joy
OK, so back to authentic joy and being selfish. What does that look like for me? For you? A hell of a lot of deconditioning that’s what.
We are all inundated from a young age about who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to look like, and what things make us “perfect.” That’s the Kool Aid we are all forced to drink. Then, when we aren’t able to live up to these impossibly high standards, we experience shame telling us we’re not good enough. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s also a lie. This is hard to process. I know because I’m basically asking you to question everything. But that is the point! I want you to be the one who makes the calls on your own life and joy. Not the world. Not society. I want you to look inside yourself and fall in love. To breathe deeply into your own lungs and exhale joy. To live unapologetically.
So, how do you do this? How do I? We need look no further than our own hearts and listen. That’s it. On any given day we have the chance to choose. To close our eyes, breathe in, and ask ourselves if we’re happy. If the answer is yes, rock on! If the answer is no, question it. If the answer is yes but it’s because I bought these super cool leggings for the gym to fit in with everyone, question that too. If the answer is yes because I bought these super cool leggings and omg they are so comfy, rock on!
It is not bad to want for yourself, to be thirsty, to have desires. It is human. Yet from our spirits we must navigate our desires and ask ourselves if our desires fill our own heart or if they hurt others and/or ourselves. I don’t know about you but I am parched. The Kool-Aid we’ve all been drinking for years isn’t the hydration any of us need. I have a deep thirst for my life and am ready to quench it. Not on the backs of anyone, and straight from my own heart.