Things I already regret not doing in my life:1. On a breezeless, 100-degree day in 1999, while in my car which had no A/C, I sat sweating, miserably, at a stoplight. Almost like a mirage, a group of sprinklers shot out of the ground on the patch of grass beside my car. I wanted nothing more than to rush out, run through the water, and hop back in the car before the light turned green. Instead, I sat, suffering through one of the longest red lights while staring longingly at the sprinklers, fearing a jaunt through them would be perceived as weird.
2. I took a run on the beach early one morning in 2003. The sun was rising, the beach was fairly empty, and the previous evening’s tides had created the perfect sandbar to stand upon for a sun salutation. I didn’t stop, even though my body ached for a perfect moment of Zen. “No one does yoga on this beach!,” I thought.
3. After spending a painfully-long amount of time engrossing myself with an artist’s work in her gallery, she asked me, the only person in the shop, what struck me about her art. She was curious about how her work spoke to me. I didn’t tell her that her work comforted me in a time of emotional turmoil, that it seemed to be talking right to my heart, and that I needed to just BE with her paintings in order to make sense of life in that moment. I stumbled through some made-up cliché response and hurried out of the shop with a tiny purchase.
I’ve listened to Oprah, for years, talk about finding joy. I’ve read self-help books. I joined The Happiness Project (mainly because the author and I share a first name). I read blogs. I consulted with friends. I went to counseling. Still, I couldn’t find my joy. Instead, I forced myself to endure uncomfortable scenarios, talked myself out of what I wanted, and kept my emotions to myself. Happiness has been elusive for me for a long time because I’ve been pushing it away. It seems so OBVIOUS, but I wasn’t getting joy because I wasn’t giving any joy. How many times have I heard, “You only get what you give.”? Hell, one of my favorite songs is “You Might Die Trying,” from the Dave Matthews Band, in which Dave sings, “If you give, you begin to live…you get the world…” Why wasn’t I listening?
A recent issue of O Magazine (yes, friends, Oprah is a guiding self-helper here; bear with me), included an article entitled, “How I Got Nicer,”, discussing the idea of becoming a friendlier being. The author, Meredith Bryan, talked about how people and animals seem to flock to her husband, that he seemed so at ease in the company of others, that he was NICE. Meanwhile, she was very cautious, never revealing too much to anyone, and always in a state of annoyance with strangers. To say the article seemed written as a personal wake-up call would be putting it too simply.
Joy doesn’t enter the heart when it is suspicious, unkind, bitter, cynical, or snide. Peace cannot be found in others’ opinions and ideals.
It seems so OBVIOUS, but I was consciously driving people away with negativity and cynicism, expecting people to see my light amid the dark, instead of giving the world my best. The life I envisioned for myself was not the one I was living, thinking myself haughty for wishing to break the molds cast by a lifetime of insecurity and self-doubt.
Recently, I questioned my desire for happiness with this inquiry: What makes me think that I deserve MORE? That my life, somehow, is ‘”bad?” A friend, whose wisdom I am always wholly appreciative of, responded with a quote from Marianne Williamson, from Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”:
‘“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
The power in those phrases resonated in me, because I want to inspire others, to contribute. I want to DO MORE than just be a Procreating Writer in the Blogosphere. But to DO MORE one must WANT MORE; to CREATE CHANGE, one must first MAKE CHANGE. To BE MORE, you first have TO BE (preferably, positive).
The change that I am making, or WE are making, because I include my husband and son in this quest for happiness, is a huge one, and it did not come about in a glorifying moment of sunlight stretching its arms heavenward. Stress, anger, disappointment, tears, screams, rage predicated a defining moment for my family. The details aren’t important, but we recently found ourselves at a crossroad: make no change and continue a life of mediocrity, limited opportunity, and self-loathing –or– do something drastic.
So, we’re moving cross-country.
We’re heading from coastline to desert, from humid to arid, from gray skies to bright skies, from low country to mountaintops. For some, this extreme change (and risk–we currently don’t have jobs nor housing lined up) seems less-than-sane. For others, our journey signifies our acknowledgement that life is certainly for living–and we’ve only got one shot. I’m ready to run through sprinklers, to stop mid-thought to listen to my soul, to speak my heart to others. Do I need to travel thousands of miles to do that? No, but to quote Virgil, courtesy of another wise friend of mine: “Fortune sides with those who dare.”
We are off to find our joy.