I remember the first time I felt joy after my mother died. She had battled leukemia for three and a half years before she died. On the day of her diagnosis, in December of 2003, my world went dark and stayed that way most of the time until she died. After her death, I was lost in grief. The newly bereaved commonly feel like they will never feel good again like no light or joy will ever return to their lives. This is how I felt and why I remember that exquisite moment of joy so clearly. I was sailing to Alaska on a cruise ship with my in-law family, and my brother-in-law and I entered a dance competition. Twirling around on the dance floor with him, I remembered what it felt like to be joyful and light.
Guilt flooded in as soon as the dance was over, and I returned to my full deep, dark grief. But even at the time, I noticed something had shifted. I was still grieving but discovered that I could also feel joy. Once I allowed myself to feel joy without guilt, without the misguided belief that I was not honoring my mother’s memory by feeling joy, I began to understand how exceptionally healing joy can be.
It’s been a rough couple of years for me. So many huge disappointments as event after event was canceled or moved online. Like many people, I found myself grieving the life that COVID altered. Blessings to those who lost lives and loved ones and health; I understand that is on a different scale. There is still grief for those who did not lose a loved one, livelihood, or health to COVID.
This past week, I took a “makeup” trip to NYC, a trip I had planned for 2020. It was different from the original one, but I saw and did some of the items on the itinerary from my previous plan.
I found joy, in the melting hot streets of Times Square and the sultry beauty of Central Park. I saw Broadway Shows and museums. I was mindful of the loss from COVID and all the joy that is still present.
Yes, there are a lot of serious challenges facing us as citizens of the USA, as humans on a challenged planet, and as beings trying to evolve. But there is also joy, and it’s okay to feel it, seek it out and even use joyful experiences to balance out what has become chronic fear and uncertainty. Joy will help give you an immunity boost, sleep better and strengthen your resilience so you can support those around you who suffer.
To be the best version of you, when you are planning your to-do’s for your non-work hours coming up, be sure joy is on your priority list.
For your sake, and for the sake of the planet!