I open our kitchen pantry cabinet and see a collection of some of our favorite moments printed and arranged in a mini collage. Taped to the inside cover of my journal, a selfie of me and Will at the beach, days after our marriage ceremony, smiles shining brighter than our flashy new ring bling.
I pull up Spotify and a picture of 6 year old me appears; grinning at the camera on the cover of my “I got me” playlist. I make our bed and catch the smile of our dear friend Austin, who passed away 3 years ago, a tiny picture tucked into the corner of a framed photo above my nightstand, where has lived since the day of his memorial service. I look in my bathroom mirror, and in my own handwriting, a dry erase reminder reads “it’s not overreacting to ask for what you need”.
I like to think of all of these of these little corners of my world as “joy jolts” — sentimental items and reminders that serve to create a sense of well-being deep in my soul on a daily basis.
Brief moments, built into my daily life, with deliberate intention to surprise and delight me. Visual reminders of how sweet it is to be alive, to be living this life. Of how precious being is. Of moments that have filled my heart in a way words cannot do justice.
I came across the term “joy jolt” a few months ago and was so excited to finally have a name for these little rituals that have played such a role in keeping me afloat during the stormiest times of my life. They are my life-vests on days where I find myself bobbing solo in a turbulent ocean. They are the glimmer of afternoon light that filters through the curtain to warm my core. They are the sound of the people I love most laughing. They are all of the sunsets I have seen and will see that light up my being and settle my soul.
In my twenty-eight years of life, the past 6 have been filled with more grief, pain and suffering than I could have imagined. For the first few years, I was engulfed by the sheer magnitude of how drastically and swiftly the steady ground I’d spent my life traversing was yanked out from right beneath my feet. I wanted to stop the train; to get off, to go back. It felt impossible to keep up with the speed with which tragedy, pain and darkness seemed to be barreling my direction. Joy — in mini jolts or as an intention — seemed not only impossible, but completely infeasible. Inside of the chaos and destruction that my inner and outer worlds were experiencing, it was the last thing on my mind.
Slowly, and with hours of guidance and growth from books, podcasts, therapy, meditation and journaling — the intensity of the pain I was carrying became something I could actually conceptualize and hold in my hands (metaphorically of course) in moments of calmness and clarity.
I learned about the power of the tiny space that exists between stimulus and response and began to practice noticing it. Once I was able to notice it, I started practicing using it to pause. Once I began pausing in its stillness, I was introduced to the language of my heart and the whispers of my intuition.
It became clear to me that utilizing this precious “pause” was and remains the most effective tool in my arsenal for coping with challenges. That with practice, patience and consistency, I can use that pause to direct me toward the most loving, gentle “next move”, in every moment of my life.
I learned that I can still smile, inside of pain. That no matter the depth of the darkness I might walk through during my time on this earth, there is a light inside of me that cannot be extinguished. A light that is always, always holding the lantern. Ready and willing to lead me back to myself, back to my own love.
In the first days of January 2020, I chose the words “joy” and “now” as anchors for the year. Dotting my days with gratitude and joy jolts had become a physical manifestation of years of inner work, and I wanted to amplify those habits and moments. To tune in more carefully to noticing what opens my heart, and what causes it to constrict. To find ways to warm and comfort my soul, no matter the sadness I might be carrying.
To come to a place of deep acceptance and knowing that even while experiencing intense longing, loss, struggle, confusion, pain, heartache and anxiety — life is still worthwhile, I am still worthwhile.
I wish I could go back in time and hug the me who was terrified, hurting and paralyzed by fear at the beginning of my journey with health challenges, grief and moments of darkness. I wish I could tell her how wildly capable she would become at unearthing the raw beauty of life, even before things “got better”.
I wish I could promise her, that she would become the keeper of her own joy and calm, not overnight, but eventually. And that having that ability would become her magic. That she would grow the capacity to hold joy and pain simultaneously, and without condition. That she would be able let go of the things that no longer served her, that were only weighing her down — and instead, lean in with trust, to the goodness around her. That she would uncover a river of unconditional love, alive and well in her heart, and that moments of happiness would fill her entire being so completely that they would carry her through moments where feeling such joy seemed too far away to imagine. That she could, and would, step into a soul — her soul — ready and willing to kindle, nurture and awaken this precious light, despite circumstance or scenery.
But since it’s 2021, and we still haven’t quite mastered time travel, going back to deliver that message to myself is impossible. So instead, I come here, to tell you.
To tell you that no matter the size of the pain you are carrying, your heart is strong enough to hold a love that will outweigh it every single time.
To assure you that accessing the boundless well of grace within you, especially during difficult life seasons, takes time. And looks different for every single person. To remind you that even once you access it, it tends to arrive in tiny glimpses and moments. That it is not a permanent state of being. That feeling difficult emotions is a part of living. That a crucial practice in the journey is to open your heart to embrace joy completely, alongside everything else life brings.
That in every moment your heart beats, your graceful, kind heart awaits your discovery of its presence. Ready, whenever you are, to weave itself through the ebbs and flows of your life.
That through every chapter of the story, the book of your being is bound by golden stitches of softness and gentleness. That learning to notice, tap into, appreciate and access that tenderness and light is the portal to your peace. That once you begin to look for it, you will find joy in the most unexpected places.
You realize the power you wield to love life, by simply being aware of the things in your world that give you life.
You learn that taking ownership of your joy, and your sorrow, is the most courageous thing you will ever do.
By holding both with love, you open the gates to feeling them completely. You become able to experience joy jolts that transport you to moments and emotions in ways you never could have imagined.
And the way you exist in this world blooms, in a way you might not have considered to be possible.
I share each step along my road to wellness and healing and hope that in doing so I can inspire you along your own path. Thank you so much for being here.