It’s been a hard few years, hasn’t it?
Going through a global pandemic forced us into isolation from each other, which is damaging our mental health. Collectively, we’ve all been dealing with fear, anger, confusion, and sometimes a falling out with our neighbors and families.
Online, the culture seems to be growing more divisive by the day.
And COVID isn’t even over.
But — let’s work with our minds on this. We need more joy in our lives. Right now.
So, reframe the way you see your life.
You’re a superhero.
You survived this, so far. You kept your family alive. And some of you endured having the kids home for 18 months, kids who were pent-up and confused. You tried to soothe them and keep them on task at the same time.
Did you know that most working moms were, on average, interrupted by their kids every 3 minutes and 43 seconds during COVID lockdowns? (I can attest to this.)
You survived this time, as well as other hard places in your life. Because, for some of us, the traumatic time of COVID also triggered old traumas and responses.
But — this time could be a gift for you, in the end.
Do you feel the need to please other people? Do you feel like a failure if you’re not productive all the time? Do you feel all the sorrow of everyone around you? Is it 3 am and you’re on your phone, turning the pillow over again, hoping this will help you sleep? Did you reach the end of the day, exhausted, without making even 15 minutes for yourself?
Remember the directive given on planes before takeoff? Put on your oxygen mask first, before you help someone else.
But it shouldn’t take a life-threatening emergency for us to learn this. We don’t pay attention to this, the same way most of us don’t listen to it on the plane either.
What’s the surest path to finding more ease in your life? Working with your mind to allow yourself more joy.
When you live with more joy, you help others to know more joy as well. We’re all interdependent. You are one among many. When you have more joy, you give more joy.
You can have more joy. You just don’t know how.
What’s one of the best ways to discover your joy?
After all, as Joan Didion wrote:
We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
I write stories in order to understand my own life. It’s who I am.
If I’m not writing something real, something I’m discovering as I write it? Then it’s not true. And in my mind, that’s not worth sharing.
You’ll be receiving the kind of writing I might have once reserved for the books I write.
Stories that serve as a guide for living with joy matter deeply to me.
I’ve been teaching and facilitating for the last 30 years. In that time, I’ve taught high school English, writing workshops, screenwriting, cooking classes, the principles of gluten-free baking, and how to do social media for business without losing your mind. The through line of all this work has been joy — the joy of being present, allowing imperfection, and thriving in community.
Now, all of my teaching is geared toward how to discover joy.
The workshops and retreats I lead are grounded in lessons from neuroscience, Buddhist ideas about working with the mind, the discoveries of behavioral science about how to make a habit that sticks, compassion for others and wishing to help them discover their joy, and a lot of humor.
I’m a storyteller, a listener, a skilled facilitator, and someone who cares. I also make sure we break up the hard conversations with a lot of ridiculousness.
Discovering my joy has changed my life. And I know it can change other people’s lives too.
What will you receive when you sign up for this newsletter?
Think of this as a weekly column called Finding Your Joy. Stories will arrive in your inbox on Wednesday mornings.
One week, you’ll receive a story from me about how to design a life around your own joy.
The next week, you’ll read a profile I’ve written of someone who has come through hard places to find joy. These are my neighbors and friends on Vashon Island, the community where I live. Like this profile of Maxcianna.
I won’t be sending you advice or lessons. I’ll be sending you stories.
Stories are the most effective way to learn.
Joy matters in this world. We all need more joy right now.
Let’s do this together.