Sometimes Life Sucks and You Pick Up Joy Anyways

pick up joy anywaysThis is real life. Yet another sewer back up. Another friend in trouble. More financial stressors. A child going through a difficult time. Something’s up in your body and it hurts. Dealing with disingenuous people. Ugh. Sometimes life sucks and you pick up joy anyways.

Should we wait until life is calm and perfectly predictable to live with joy?

Do we permit life circumstances to control our every thought and emotion?

Why do other people get to push our buttons and control our moods and behavior?

We can decide, that whether life is easy breezy or downright horrible, to pick up joy and wear it like a garment. To shift our thoughts and remind ourselves that though life feels rocky right now and we are walking through some unknowns, that sometimes life sucks and you pick up joy anyways.

When we choose to pick up joy we are more easily able to identify the gifts of today: we have good, albeit simple food to feed our family. We cannot make life perfect for our friend but we can love them and offer words of encouragement and maybe some homemade soup. We have walked through financial stressors before and will come out of this season too, heart and mind intact. This challenging circumstance for our child permits us to come alongside and demonstrate our love and support for him/her in tangible ways. We have access to healthcare and fresh air and legs that permit us to get out for a walk or to dance with our child in the kitchen.

And when we walk through hard times we come up against the very necessary and amazing opportunity to practice resilience, to put our self-care skills into action. To be reminded of the powerful truth that we get to decide who we are and how we choose to be in the world.

I encourage you to go back and reread that sentence again.

Does this seem silly or trivial to you? Like I am downplaying all your pain or the reality of your situation? Because I assure you, mindset matters. Moving out from a victim mentality matters. Practicing resilience matters. I have lived a near lifetime of chronic fear and anxiety and I have lived with deeply rooted joy. An unshakeable rootedness that anchors me in the storm. I prefer the latter.

Oh, it is not easy. My husband hears the stress in my voice and those creases between my eyes seem a little deeper today. My jaw hurts because I was clenching all night; I must remember my splint tonight. My right arm and joints have flared up and hurt as they do when I’m shifting into a stress state. But I choose to pick up joy. And so can you.

But look, I get it. Sometimes it is easy to tell yourself to calm down, that all is well, but your body has other ideas. No matter how much you will yourself to chill out your bossy brain takes over and starts yelling – loudly – all manner of fearful and anxious thoughts and your traitorous body follows like a hapless little puppy.

So what are some habits we can practice – some practical tips – for these challenging seasons?

  1. Do The Work. When I was going through a really difficult time years back my psychologist recommended Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is (affiliate link). I completely disagreed with some of her philosophy yet found parts of it extremely helpful in shifting my thoughts to hope from despair. Follow the link to understand the process and for the free worksheets.
  2. Pause and just breathe. Don’t skip over this. If you’re stressed out, chances are you are forgetting to breathe or perhaps breathing too quickly. Pull out your favorite essential oil and set a timer on your phone to remind you to physically pause a few times a day, ground your body, and take some slow, calming, deep breaths.
  3. Reach out for comfort or social support. A text or phone call. A long hug from your partner (there is danger during times like these that you and your partner pull away from each other rather than pull together) or other healthy touch.
  4. Go to bed. I feel like I say this over and over and over. There are so many people hustling out of necessity – working multiple jobs – just doing their best to survive and sacrificing sleep for this. But there are an equal number of people thinking that staying up till 2am to work or watch TV is the answer. But sleep deprivation impacts your ability to think clearly and make wise decisions, to respond in a healthy way to stress.
  5. Practice Gratitude. Force your brain to see the good. If you are feeling incredibly anxious and jittery I encourage you to use a journal or app to physically write down the things you are grateful for rather than just thinking them. Writing takes more work and causes a bigger hard stop which can help pull you out of your head into your body. A good thing.
  6. Get Coloring or knitting. Listen to music that energizes or read a book that inspires. Spending time watching TV feels easy – mind numbing – and curling up with a good movie can be lovely once in a while but TV watching is not one of the best ways to unwind.
  7. Gentle movement like walking can help us lower stress or anxiety. We may feel we don’t have time for this in really busy seasons but walking, yoga, stretching or even dancing with a local two-step group can boost endorphins and lower stress and anxiety.

I am sorry for the stress you are walking through. I wish you were not afraid, or alone, or in pain. I can honestly say it would feel far lovelier if my life were absent of struggle in this moment.

But this is real life. And we can do this. And I believe there are amazing gifts that await us on the other side of the valley if we have eyes to see.

We can choose to face head-on the reality of our current situation, and to pick up joy anyways.

With love and compassion,

Krista xo

Permission to Be Less Than Great

permission to be less than greatOne of the all time most significant, wonderful shifts in my life happened the moment I decided I was good enough. Less than great. Imperfect. A little broken even perhaps. But also beautiful, strong, courageous, compassionate and determined.

I decided that I like myself. All of me.

The act of giving myself permission to simply show up and be less than great broke the chains that had bound me for years. Heavy, twisted, tightly woven ropes of misery that held me back from laughing freely, from sleeping peacefully, from walking in deeply-rooted joy.

All at once it dawned on me that there are no life rules that dictate I must be any different from who I am – with all my strengths and weaknesses. All my particular hopes and desires, pet peeves and personality quirks. I simply am. You simply are. And it is good.

We have believed a lie. A lie that tells us we are unacceptable, unlovable, a failure, too slow, too big, too much or too little. There is no winning when you live under this condemnation.

But oh, the sweet freedom that washes me free of shame and comparison when I step out into good enough. When I replace the ugly lie with the truth that I am artwork, beautifully knit together craftsmanship.

I am a chunky charcoal wool scarf with a few loose ends and snags here and there but safe and comforting and inviting. You are a delicate floral watercolor with slightly ragged edges, all muted colors of femininity. You speak of spring and delight and possibility. My sister is fierce – strong and bold she calls women to fight and justice. She is an intricately carved wooden shield; solid and mysterious, slightly battle scarred.

We are beautiful. None of us perfect, none of us complete perhaps, without the others. Each of us needed.

I wonder what would happen to us women if each day, many times a day if necessary, we decided to show up for life with permission to be less than great. If we simply showed up. Naked. Allowing ourselves to be seen. If we did not worry so much about making our mark or competing in the marketplace or trying to look sweet and pretty and competent.

But we stopped hiding and simply showed up.

I wonder how life might change. How delight and joy and unencumbered creativity might begin to flow. How we might support each other with less judgment and wariness. How we might, as women, be more inclined to lift each other up instead of tearing down.

How we might, by the simple bravery of showing up ourselves, call our daughters and sisters to freedom.

When we disentangle our minds and hearts and bodies from the false yet pervasive notion that we have to be the best at something we are able to just do the work that lights us up. To be who we are: athlete, teacher, biologist, healer, advocate, gardener, listener, friend.

We can sing joyfully without caring so much that we are not quite as skilled as the lady over there. We can tend to our business with a lighter step. We can write the book or return to medical school or remind ourselves that no matter how many others are bringing in income and building impressive livelihoods, our primary mission is tending to the hearth and little people and we can find peace and joy in this place all over again.

We can simply be and let go of all the “shoulds” and looking over our shoulders. And what might actually happen is that we end up living a life far more amazing and beautiful than we ever could have thought possible. We might create something – a work of art, a connected family, a business that knocks our stripy socks off. We might just end up crafting a life that far surpasses great because we simply showed up and began walking in freedom.

But here’s the thing – no one else can give you permission to be less than great. That is a gift that only you can offer to yourself. You alone are responsible for this. You must be the one to decide to step out from under the mantle of comparison or shame or perfectionism; to step out and offer who you are to the world. All the pretty parts and the broken bits.

Can you give yourself permission today to be less than great?

Krista xo