I remember a past life not too long ago. A daily experience of feeling more stress and sadness than anything else. I felt hurried to move forward and yet trapped at the same time. Often bound to my car as my only mode of transportation to the people and things that connected me. It would have appeared to most that I was in fact moving forward. One job lead to the next. Degrees lead to graduations. Yet, there was a part of me, deep down, that felt it was being smothered. The person I wanted to be and the person that was felt at times like opposites.
Being a good Christian woman I tried to pray harder, to dig deeper into faith and be a “better person.” I tried to do more good in the world. To stop negative thoughts and to control myself. I tried scheduling and organizing my days and time as if I could some how stay busy enough to not be sad. I moved houses, changed friends, went to this church or that church, I read books, I talked to friends, and still that feeling didn’t change.
Until one day I adopted a new philosophy. I realized that I didn’t know what would bring me more joy. I wasn’t even sure I truly knew joy. Sure, I had joyous moments in life but I didn’t have many hobbies or activities that brought me daily joy. I wasn’t even sure what part of me continued to be smothered despite all of the good around me. So I started to just create space for it.
I removed one thing that made me unhappy at a time. And for a while it was hard to find what about my life was making me unhappy. Some days I just focused on the parts that did make me happy. Spending time with Michael and Abbey, making time for friends, letting go of rigid rules, being in nature… and over time it became clear what parts needed to be removed. Traffic on I-5, spending time in my car, feeling pushed indoors by the weather, the lightening fast pace of a growing metropolitan environment, the feeling that nature was so close but so far away and the feeling of having to keep up.
It has taken me much longer than I anticipated. And this journey has included more stages, transformation and perseverance than I ever could have imagined. But on this last trip to Washington I realized somehow, I had found joy in my daily life. And that joy was in being authentically me. Listening to myself as a kind compassionate friend and not a critic. Giving myself permission to let go of the places and things that didn’t nourish my soul. I don’t expect that life as it is will fit me forever. The important part is that I have learned feelings are not always obnoxious obstacles to overcome. They are the most valuable guides to who you were created to be.
I had a wonderful time in Washington visiting friends. But for the first time ever, I experienced joy in coming home to the life I have built in both work and play.