It’s all well and good for Wise Ones (my go-to writers, philosophers, light-workers and mindfulness experts) to tell me that Joy is the highest and most powerful energetic vibration there is. And that Joy should be my goal. For today. Or at least for the minute that I can sustain it. But what if my personal life feels chaotic? Or, what if things beyond my control (pretty much all external events right now) have sent me into a mental and emotional hiding place?  A terrified creature in a forest that seems perpetually in flames. Has Joy disappeared from my life, or am I just not recognizing it in its more subtle forms?

‘Joy’ isn’t an emotion I can fake. Not really. I can try – for the benefit of others, usually – but the forced smile on my face reveals what feels hollow in my heart. Still, I look around and listen to my mentors and guides who seem to be in a calmer, more present, more joyful state of being. Are they all just ‘faking it ‘til they make it’?

I think about my past relationship with Joy. Falling in love. The birth of my son. Crushing an interview. Sipping champagne as I looked out across Paris from the very top of the Eiffel Tower. Oh yes. I know what pure joy is; what it feels like, for sure. But exactly where has it been hiding lately?

Just like anything else in my life that goes missing – my eyeglasses; the book I promised to loan to a friend months ago; the return-receipt for a ridiculously-expensive (Pandemic-induced) pair of shoes – I know that I need to just relax. To put the angst of loss aside, allowing what’s vanished to come back to me. It almost always does.

And so it was today that I had an epiphany about Joy.

While I was absently doing something around the house but still – full disclosure – thinking about the ‘absence’ of giddy, toe-curling Joy in my life, I made a new connection in my head and heart. For me, feelings of pure joy (aka bliss, euphoria, extreme optimism or at least hope) have come from external sources that I now feel pretty much cut-off from. Travel. Relationships. ‘Exposure’ to fresh places, people, opportunities. My mind mulled-over this rather depressing conclusion for a minute. After all:  what the hell is Life all about, if Joy in all its forms, is missing? Do I wait for it to come back, manifesting in the ways that I want and need it to? Or, can I somehow manufacture Joy in my own emotional laboratory?

I realized today that I can do exactly that, with almost no effort. As I thought about my life, my mind amplified (of course) the big plans I’d been making, now derailed by events beyond my control (the pandemic, job losses, fires everywhere). I looked at my Vision Board where these plans live in technicolor. A still life. “But still, Life”, was my internal voice, nudging me to accept that I needed a new, blank page. A re-set.

What are my priorities now? How am I defining, and finding Joy these days? I still long for what I’m unable to “do” right now but have realized that other versions of joy exist. They might not feel as intense, but they still feel good.

Like many other people during the pandemic, I’ve become my own meme baking delicious treats. Unable to find an actual vanilla bean locally (I refuse to buy them online), I turned to “real” vanilla extract. As anyone who cooks can tell you, “the nose knows” the difference. Still, my priority was to lose myself in the process of creating something amazing. Which I did. And a kind of momentum began to build after that. My #1 priority became finding whatever kind of Joy I could in any activity that made me feel happier, more creative and more peaceful.                                                                                                               

I’ll always be the kind of person who craves ‘intensity’ in my experiences, and am definitely looking forward to having my breath taken-away once more. But my priorities have become simpler; and the more subtle forms of Joy have, for now, lifted my spirit in unexpected ways.

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