Cultivating Joy: A Hope for the New Year

I haven’t been here in awhile and I did not complete my holiday mission to find and write about magic and cheer.  Poo.  I suppose I sort of failed at that one.  Honestly, the holidays were difficult this year and cheer was a little hard to come by.  I even tried to relinquish my duties as the Christmas Chief.  But, that’s okay.  I don’t think the holiday blues are abnormal, just, at a time when we are supposed to be clinking glasses and memory-making, the blues are disappointing.

But, I am pleased to say, I crawled out of those dark woods again and am singing.  The possibility of a whole new year helped as did some butt kicking from family and friends.  Still, 2014! Woo-hoo!  Instead of going out and partying it up, I rang in the New Year with a solitary glass of champagne and some serious board game action.  (Not to mention a yummy spread of hors d’oeuvres.)

With this relatively quiet entrance into a new 365-day cycle, I did, honestly, find myself on a new path.

I understand that New Year’s resolutions are often empty promises.  It seems to be a common theme to start with a bang and then to, fairly quickly, dissolve back into old patterns.  Still, I am constantly irked by the number of comments, commercials, and jokes that belittle these New Year hopes and goals.  I heard a commercial on the radio the other day that promised that the drugstore would be there, providing supplements and weight loss pills, when the workout plan failed.  In a yoga class last night, the instructor made a joke while we were practicing our Ujjayi breath about a new gym opening up for two weeks after the New Year and then turning back into a bar.  How encouraging!  How hopeful!

I do admit that the number of people joining the Y on January 3rd only to revoke their membership a few months later is a little embarrassing and probably a lot sad but let’s not be judgy and just assume that our goals will not be met.  That is self-defeatist and setting us all up for failure and possibly shame.  Let’s instead form a cheerleading squad of hopefuls that encourage one another to see the New Year as a new beginning, a time of reflection, change, and hope whether the resolution works out or not.

So, my path.

I am reading a book by Brene Brown entitled The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  The fact that I am reading the book is a hoorah in and of itself.  I haven’t been able to silence my brain enough or to focus enough to read anything all the way through for a little over a year.  So, so not like me.  So, so sad.  But now, ah-ha! part of my new path, I have conquered 2/3 of the book in a little over three days.  Yay, yay, and more yay!

In Chapter Six (Guidepost #3), the revered Mrs. Brown discusses the process of numbing dark emotions (thus also numbing light emotions) through a variety of means, both addictive and non-addictive, and how this adversely affects our access to hope, joy, and Wholehearted living.  Brown describes herself as a “take-the-edge-off-aholic” and honestly points out her own resistance to vulnerability and her desire to squelch pain.

In reading this (although I have been admitting as much before reading this, commenting to a girlfriend the other night the pain that my avoidance pattern has brought me), I realize that I, too, am a “take-the-edge-off-aholic” and I have been wallowing in a Pink Floyd-like numbness (well maybe not that numb, but definitely a somewhat comfortable numbness) throughout the last 14 months, at times confronting my emotions, but more often running from them.   I’ve also avoided certain situations and haven’t let realities sink in.  Lovely.

But, identifying a problem is the first step to conquering the problem, right?

So, my path.

In the last, maybe ten days or so, I have been conscious not to numb.  Self-aware.  Alert.   I have sat silently with myself.  I have read.  I have written.  I have started a gratitude journal (again) and attended yoga.  I have been more present with my son.   And, with all of this, I have also cried and felt a bitter sense of loneliness and, yes, grief.  But, I have also felt joy.  And, I am, day-by-day, following this sense of joy.  I am tapping into the authentic me and not creating a false sense of happiness by escaping my truths.

Ten days.

I’ve been afraid to discuss this joy-laden trail to my friends (so, you know, instead I’m discussing it here…) because ten days is only ten days.  I feel a shift but am afraid that others will think it is a false shift.  (You know, I’m not trying to be mean, but you’ve been down this path before.)  Still, in order to continue to follow the joy, I have to name it and celebrate it.  I have to just check each day off as it comes.  I didn’t numb today.  I stayed present and authentic.  I made healthy choices for myself.

I don’t expect to walk this new path to perfection.  According to Brown, striving for perfection is another way to obliterate joy.  I agree.  I expect to walk this path one foot in front of the other until I trip on a root and fall flat on my face.  Then, I have enough faith right now to know that I will pick my ass up again and keep walking, puffy lip and all.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…  today, eleven.

Yum.

In Googling numbness, I misread a quote by Alan Moore of Watchmen fame.  I read:  “We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions.  Yet seen from another vantage point, as if new, it may still take the breath away.”

He did not say that.  He actually wrote “another’s vantage point” not “another vantage point.”  And, while I like the quote as is, I like the idea of creating a new vantage point within ourselves, of not needing someone else’s view, of looking at the world (and the heart) from a new perspective, one which makes it all fresh and new and beautiful.  That is my hope for this New Year.  A fresh perspective, a reordering of priorities, a year full of joy and, yes, sadness, but of healthy choices and a set of full emotions.

Ten days.  It’s a start…

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