During times of my deepest darkness, I could sense no light, only pain. Those were my most challenging years. I still have those days but, thankfully, not as often. It’s ironic that part of my first name (Alicia-Joy) has become a guiding principle for my life. I choose joy. (or maybe it’s not irony, but part of life’s magic. Who knows?).
I’ve come to know that for me joy doesn’t mean a state of bubbly bliss. It’s more acceptance and peace and appreciation of being. Feeling this way is a choice. All feelings are choices, really. Even in times of tragedy, the moment passes, and then we are left with new space in our minds that’s opened up. We fill that space with thoughts and feelings about the event/circumstances. In those moments we choose to focus on thoughts and then interpret those thoughts as feelings of joy or pain or something else.
The thing is, it’s often not an easy choice, for me at least. It feels easier to jump on a spiraling slide which takes me from one negative thought to the next and wraps me tight in the familiar, cold blanket of despair. But I know that slide well. After years of riding it to nowhere but dark, sticky places that are hard to unglue myself from, I know it intimately. I can identify when I’m on my way there. And because I know it, I can see and feel it, and I can choose to jump off.
Jumping off can be tricky, though. It’s clumsy and awkward and my mind resists, begging me to keep sliding downwards to that desolate, but somehow comfortable, place. So over the years, I’ve gathered a toolkit to help me in those times. These are activities, thoughts, places that I can wrangle in those tricky moments. Sometimes one works and others don’t. That’s why I keep an entire toolkit to choose from.
Here’s what’s in my toolkit:
going for a walk
reading certain poetry
reaching out to people in my immediate circle
playing in my watercolors
doing a quick–but intense–burst of exercise
reading something inspiring.
And by choosing one of these, I start the upward climb towards joy. It’s a climb but not a fight. I don’t fight against the negative feelings. I see them. I acknowledge them. Then I start my ascent by opening up my toolkit to get me through them.
I want to help you choose joy, too. For those times when you feel the slipperiness of the slope underneath you. Or even as a daily practice. I’m writing a book of short poems (THE LITTLE BOOK OF JOY) featuring a collection of poems focused on joy.
I’ll be self- publishing the book in June. This will be my first published book of poetry. So far, I’ve only written nonfiction (how-to) type books. The writing process has been much different. Even more than writing, it’s been a gathering process, combing through my poetry journals (and scraps of poetry written here and there) to find pieces to add to the collection.
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And choose joy!