Finding Joy

img_0213-2What is joy?

I mean what does joy mean to you? Joy is one of those things that can be different for everyone.  Some think it’s a warm feeling. Some see it as calmness in the midst of chaos. Or perhaps it’s like a hug from a loved one. Or even love itself. What makes you joyful?

In the beginning, because I spent so much time focusing on work, or others, I didn’t have  a clue as to how to be happy or what joy was.. I kept asking myself the question, but I couldn’t find an answer.

One thing that helped me was to identify the sources that were stifling me and figure a way to get them out of my life.  I thought that because I had been laid off, that work was no longer an issue. But that wasn’t true.  So much of my life was work focused.  When I lost my job, I also lost my sense of self.  I was grieving. I was grieving for so much, loss of a friend, loss of family, loss of my job, and loss of me. I had to stop and acknowledge the grief and let it wash over me. Embrace it.  If you fight grief, it takes longer to heal.

I also needed to remove the excess commitments and people from my life.  That was a little harder. I wasn’t used to saying “no.”  It was far easier for me to overcommit and say yes.

Since asking the question “What makes me happy?” wasn’t giving me clear answers, I decided to try the reverse and ask myself what didn’t I like about my life. That was  much easier to answer.  I was stressed, tired, sad. I felt trapped and lost and lonely.  It was a long list. And not very specific. So, I took each item and asked the “Why?” question.

“Why did I feel trapped? “

“Why was I lost?”

“Why was I lonely?”

When I gave the answer, I asked again.  I kept asking until I got pretty detailed. For me, so much of the stress and sadness was related to my family. I still grieved for them, but I was also reminded of them daily by the sheer amount of stuff I had “inherited.”  My home was packed with their stuff.  My 4 out buildings were packed.  Plus, there was a huge pile of stuff in the yard under a big, blue tarp. My house is only 1000 square feet in size. My home used to be a sanctuary, but it had become a cluttered mess that I didn’t even recognize.

Once I cleared the mental chaos and removed myself from extra commitments, it was easier to find some answers. I walked the dogs  and got lots of fresh air. I liked walking.  I liked being outside. I started with that and kept doing it. I began to feel better.  So I tried something else … tending the yard.  I lived in the high desert and the yard was pretty rustic, but there pruning I could do.  After doing that for a while, I was feeling up to tackling a few minor repairs on the house.

I kept at it, picking something to do, trying it for a bit, getting comfortable, then moving on. Slowly, I realized that I was no longer unhappy.  I wasn’t joyful yet, but I was getting there. At least I was making a start.

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