Inside: The way to be okay is not for life to be all one thing and not the other, but to practice opening ourselves up to joy in the middle of the storm. Or the wildfire.
I want to be clear about something right from the start: I prefer control, everything neat and tidy, my ducks all in a row. I like comfort and ease and I love a good evidence-base because it helps me feel more empowered.
And also, I’ve learned to loosen my grip and dive into the messiness of life to survive and to thrive. Both/and.
When I pull my brain back from tomorrow and my heart from yesterday, I live with joy today.Krista xo
The last time I traveled alone with my husband was three months before our son died. Four months after his first attempt to die. Our decision to travel that summer was a choice to celebrate life, including his life, and each other in the midst of pain, fear, and uncertainty.
We knew that at any moment we could receive the call that our son was gone. But what good was waiting around? Staying home in constant fear changed nothing at that point in our son’s journey. So we stepped into trust and went to New Orleans to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
The truth is that all of life is always uncertain but at times we’re better at maintaining the illusion of control. Or the delusion of it.
This week my husband and I are visiting PEI, eastern Canada, in the midst of uncontrolled forest fires back home. An unusually hot spring provided ample fuel for the 100 fires impacting my province as I write.
Our town and our daughters (and cat), had to evacuate yesterday without us. Because there were fires about an hour away, though I didn’t truly believe it would be necessary, we prepared a go-bag of essentials and made a clear plan of action with our daughters in case of evacuation. But then my husband and I followed through on our travel plans; we boarded a plane and flew across the country to experience a new-to-us corner of Canada.
Not gonna lie, this experience is anxiety-producing. It feels hard to focus. Instead of resting or having fun we’re staying in regular contact with our girls, checking in on local friends and our closest neighbor. Everyone is safe. My older daughter is capable, wise, and a natural leader (also she works for Alberta Wildfire so has colleagues to confer with as she gets her sister to safety and then returns to help out).
Joy and pleasure are as essential as equity and justice in the making of a better world.Janell Ross in The Radical Joy of Rachel Cargle
the human soul is tenacious: finding joy in the wild
In the midst of uncertainty and upheaval it’s natural to want to tighten our grip and hunker down. My husband and I both have anxious tendencies and an instinct toward safety and security. We’re not huge risk takers by nature.
Except that there’s a little wildfire inside of me that resists too much sameness or settling. That pushes me to expand my capacity rather than become too contracted by a need for safety or the illusion of perfection. And one of the skills that has served me well over the years is to prepare wisely and then loosen my grip and dive heart-first into the life in front of me.
Besides, not much of life is truly within our control. It’s all uncertain. It always was.
We don’t choose for another person whether they will live or die. We don’t control the path of wildfire or the state of the economy. All we can do is live this moment. Choose where our focus goes and how we want to BE in this moment.
The human soul is tenacious. It’s wise and if we’ll listen it will direct us to freedom. It can only point us in a direction, though. We must choose our response. We can say yes or no to the prompting.
A note about trauma, high-sensitivity, and intentional practice
Trauma and high sensitivity can make flexibility more challenging and also all of us must intentionally support our nervous system and learn practical skills that help us stay present, mindful and calm. It doesn’t happen on its own.
Finding joy in the wild can be supported by nervous system regulation, mindfulness, self-awareness, and somatic practices to support calm and mind-emotion-body awareness and integration. If you’re interested in deepening understanding and practice in these areas, I invite you to join the Brave + Beautiful Community.
As we befriend ourselves and learn to work with our wiring and not against it, and as we learn to flow a bit more with the current instead of expending all of our energy railing against it, we make space for joy and peace.Krista xo
it may seem counterintuitive but to say yes to joy is also to say yes to risk
When I felt the call to return to school just before my 40th birthday, when it did not make sense financially or energetically, but I KNEW it was time, I said yes. When I felt the pull to step out upon the water to start my business, even though I was afraid, my inner critic was mean and loud, and I hadn’t yet grown into my wisdom and value as a teacher, I said yes.
Each of these were choices to remember my vision, loosen my grip on the outcome, and focus my attention on small deliberate, consistent steps forward.
As I age and consider what it might look, sound, or feel like to continue aging with all the new challenges and opportunities this might present, it’s the same practice. Gather information, set a wise course, and then loosen my grip and pull my mind and heart back to this moment. Live fully here, today.
When we say yes to having children, or we risk loving someone or we make a bid for connection, we don’t know how things will turn out. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. Except that we get to keep choosing our response, one step a time.
When I met my husband and knew we’d marry after only two weeks, even though we came from different cultures and spoke different languages, I leaped. And when we bought a rental property that turned out to be a horrible financial investment for us (though it taught me a lot and grew my capacity so I have no regrets), same deal. Say yes, loosen my grip, leap.
Last spring I threw myself into some beautiful (though also stressful) chaos. I decided to help my older daughter buy her first home, put my rental property on the market right before interest rates jumped and people were scared to buy, and put some much-needed love into my own home through renovations.
A ridiculous amount of work all at once while grieving, healing, parenting, and running a business. It was all values-aligned but hard. And I recognize the tremendous privilege in all of this – owning homes, selling homes, renovating a home. Everything took more time and money than planned, nothing was neat and tidy. It wasn’t any fun. But I regret nothing.
While I didn’t consciously choose chaos (I made a conscious choice to do these things but seriously underestimated the work and the stress involved), I believe that my tenacious soul, or my inner self, was determined that I not shy away from the fullness of life – and instead dive on in, heart-first.
Some things are weird and hard to wrap our minds around. But reason and logic and data can only take us so far in life. I believe we each have a wise inner teacher or Self that sees beyond the walls of our comfort zone. That seeks truth and freedom even at the expense of ego. And that we can trust to direct us into expanded capacity and increased freedom and joy. A sidenote: I believe that freedom and joy are tangled up together. They grow together.
My brain and body may scream to stay in safety but my inner teacher calls “leap!” Trust yourself. Trust in the goodness of life. Trust in your resilience and ability to do hard things. Open yourself up to the possibility of joy, Krista.
The way to be okay is not for life to be all one thing and not the other, but to practice opening ourselves up to joy in the middle of the storm. Or the wildfire.
Each time we practice trust or joyful possibility is one more opportunity to face fear head-on and refuse to stay entrapped by the limitations of our current vision or capacity.
There’s more adventure, stretching, and joy ahead. If you’ll say yes to it.
The Brave + Beautiful Community is for brave and curious women in the middle season of life. Befriend your true self and reclaim your inner wisdom, bravery and strength. You’ll also have the opportunity to build beautiful friendships with like-minded women doing this inspiring work!