Cultivating Joy - A Year in Review
How do you frame your New Years Resolutions?
For 2018, I decided to take a new approach to the resolution game, and I chose a theme, without much of a plan.
I started off the year knowing that there would be some big, exciting changes in my life.
I knew it was going to be a year filled with ample opportunity for happy moments: I was getting married, followed by a honeymoon, and hopes to move out of the city once-and-for-all. But for someone whose life has been touched by anxiety, depression, and a general fear of failure, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be fully present for the happy occasions ahead, and that my deep-rooted pain would inhibit me.
At the beginning of 2018 I felt manipulated by a company that locked me into a dead-end job. It had been extremely difficult over the years in that position to experience joy in my day-to-day. I was underpaid, undervalued, and uninspired, and my days were bracketed by a long, stressful commute.
I’d learned a lot about myself through meditation, and methods to soothe my inner spirit, have compassion for myself, love myself, and accept the present moment. But, after many years of study, I realized that what seemed missing was joy.
I still had my walls up, inhibitions that had plagued me for years. I allowed irritations to wash over me, but I hadn’t learned to laugh at them. The absurd and ridiculous was frustrating, instead of humorous, and I wanted to change that. I decided to focus 2018 on the cultivation of joy.
To me, joy is the freedom to laugh too hard, to act silly and out of place, to invite absurdity and allow the happy moments to revolve forward in time and in body, like the chime of vibrations on a singing bowl or cymbal. Joy is the ability to feel uplifted by one’s laughter, and to share it with others— even strangers passing by. Joy was something I hadn’t experienced much of since I was a kid, having stifled it during puberty and buried it deep inside me, covered with pain and fear that continued to dominate my adult life .
Soon into the new year, I was let go from my job. No matter the circumstances, getting let go has always been a source of great pain and trauma, saturated with fear for my future. But this time around, I vowed for it to be different: I started with laughing at my misery, and by shirking the anger and humiliation I felt. I gave myself permission to focus all my attention on the things that made me happy: my relationship, my craft, and my friends.
This time I really believed that all was going to be ok. I would survive this, and come out on top.
Thankfully, a month after being sent home, I married the love of my life. Not intending to be cliche, but this really was the most joyous day of my life! I felt so free to invite happiness and gratitude, and I felt accepted and loved by all around me. The day was a blur, but the night was a party with dancing and glowing neon lights and donuts and pure silliness. Even the taxi cab driver at 6am the following morning felt like a magical apparition and good omen to my new marriage! We laughed, I cried with joy. My husband looked at me with such joy and pride in his eyes like I’d never seen before, and I felt happier than I ever had in my life!
When the rush of the wedding died down and it was finally time to get back to reality, I refused to allow fear to creep back in and rule my world as it had done so much in the past. I made the choice to find joy upon waking up, to find joy at the gym, to find joy in my projects, and to find joy in the monotony of a life at home.
I sought out reasons each day to be silly, and to laugh out loud. Sometimes, if I didn’t have a direct reason, I made one up. I put on a happy song and danced like a teenager in front of the mirror. I laughed out loud until something was funny, and then I laughed about that. I smothered our cat in hugs and kisses until he whined and protested, and I laughed at him. I goofed off in front of my husband, speaking in character voices, and projecting high energy whenever I could.
At first, I had to remind him— I’m cultivating joy here! So he wouldn’t think I had gone mad. But it seemed to work, and the contagion of silliness has carried us through the year, allowing us both to laugh at ourselves daily and be each other’s source of high spirits.
What I began to discover by inviting joy into each day was that I felt more confident in myself. I felt freed from other’s judgments, because I could laugh at them. I realized that I was smiling more, making friends with strangers more often, and living with more gratitude, rather than having to channel it.
Shortly after our wedding we were blessed with a puppy, which brought us tons of joy as she learned to walk, jump, growl, play, and now at 8 months old, she’s learning the leash and commands and how to play with the cat without getting scratched (and its hilarious). Yes, there are frustrations— 4am whining, accidents on the floor, barking at every little sound. But learning how to laugh at the frustration, and to feel gratitude and love in the moment is cultivating joy is all about!
Finally, the most exciting news of 2018 was learning that I was pregnant! Carrying a love child into this world has always been a life goal, and although our little guy wasn’t planned per se, the sheer knowledge of his existence and healthy growth inside my belly has brought me a calming joy— a deeper satisfaction than anything else I’ve ever experienced.
I have no doubt that if I hadn’t taken seriously my resolution of cultivating joy, this love child wouldn’t have been conceived. I believe in karma, and I know deep within me that this child has come into this world at a time when my husband and I both are at our most happy and loving selves. The vibrations of joy continue to revolve around us in a celebratory chime of goodness.
I know that major, happy life moments like those I’ve experienced in 2018 are not par for the course of life. But the intention of cultivating joy is one that I can continue to employ for the rest of my life, despite the challenging circumstances that will present themselves.
Now that 2018 is coming to a close, I look back on my year of Joy and feel incredible gratitude, and zest for my life ahead. It leaves me wondering, what should be my focus for 2019? With a baby on the way, a move to a new town, and shift in my career, a major life transition for both my husband and I... What expectations can I possibly have?
And maybe that’s it— letting this year of life unfold the way it will, but with the intentions of previous resolutions permeating each day. With such an aspiration— without the pressure of a plan— I can’t help but look ahead with excitement and a certain peace of mind... and isn’t that really what we all want through our New Years Resolutions?