Stumbling Into Joy

I quit Whole30 approximately 24 hours after I started it. I was embarrassed, and sort of disappointed in myself. Mostly I was afraid of telling my best friend because she’s strong and dedicated and I wanted to make her proud. But in true best friend fashion, she laughed it off and we moved on. Because I need to do me, and she’s glad I’m doing what makes me happy.

But the decision to quit got me thinking. I really wake up excited about my day. (Unless I can’t have my dose of sugary coffee and bowl of oatmeal. Then I’m sad. So sad.) I wake up excited to use my pretty little marker pens in my pretty little planner. I wake up excited to spend a few minutes with my husband before he leaves for work and the kids bound downstairs. I wake up excited to find bits of joy in my day. I wake up excited to put food in the crockpot because I get to smell it all day. I wake up excited to research our next adventure. And it goes without saying, I wake up excited to spend another day with my three crazy littles. Unless they’re being little shits. Then I question my excitement.

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When did this happen? When did I start enjoying a very normal life? I had this same existence a few years ago and I thought I needed something big – something 15 steps outside of the box. I wondered how I’d ever wake up and find joy in the little things. But it happened, and here I am. After struggling in Indiana for half a decade, we moved to Paradise, and it was fantastic. But our life was still very normal there – very suburban. It was just sprinkled with year-round adventures. We hiked mountains and snorkeled and skydived and spent time with wild sea turtles. We backpacked and whale-watched and swam with dolphins. It was glorious, but the vast majority of the time, I sat on my sofa, played on my computer, and listened to the pundits as CNN aired in the background. And for the most part, I was pretty damn happy. Hawai’i taught me so much about myself.

And now we’re here in Colorado, where the promise of adventure is even greater. Sure, we don’t have an ocean. The sea turtles, dolphins and whales are a bit scarce around these parts. But we have mountains. So many incredibly tall and challenging mountains. And rivers and streams. And more land wildlife than I could possibly name. And the great part is that we can hop in our van and spend a weekend just about anywhere. Just knowing that makes me infinitely happy. I can’t imagine how it’ll feel when we actually do it.

I spend a great deal of my life figuring out what I enjoy. Does that seem a little trite and a little idealistic? Good. It should. Life is meant to be enjoyed. There is no other way to properly live it if given the choice. We don’t need to have an end game.  We can, and long term goals can be wildly inspiring. But for me personally, I get stuck on the end game. I stress myself out over what I may be or do one day, and it inhibits me from living in the moment. When I’m so focused on whether or not I might achieve tomorrow’s goals, I don’t allow myself to have a lazy afternoon with James and the kids. I feel antsy and my heart races and I need to get everything done right now. But of course I can’t. And that makes me sad.

I’m writing this to say that I stumbled into this joy. I stumbled upon waking up excited to live my life. I did not guilt myself into it. I did not feel sufficiently thankful for what I had so the Universe finally granted me happiness. That’s ridiculous and it pisses me off every time I see a meme suggesting such a thing. It’s okay to feel unsatisfied with your life. It’s okay to feel sad. I still wake up feeling sad some days, and I don’t beat myself up over it. I let it exist, and I try to build myself a ladder to climb out of the hole. For me that, means looking at old pictures. It means reliving experiences that brought me great joy. It means expecting nothing of myself except for the bare minimum, and simply having hope that it’ll leave as quickly as it came. And it does.

But the point I want to make is that I think I got here by searching for joy every single day. I don’t mind being selfish, and I don’t mind living for today. I have two important facets of my life that really matter for the future: my financial situation and my children’s education. That’s it. Don’t be reckless with money, and make sure my children are prepared for their own futures. Everything else is fluid, and it should be treated as such. If something isn’t working for me, my marriage, or my family? Change it. I have no standards I need to live by. No one will be let down if I don’t achieve everything on my vision board. The people who matter in my life? They want me to be happy. That’s it. And there is no pressure with that anymore, because the only one who can define my own happiness is me.

There is so much freedom in knowing that. There is a massive amount of room for joy when you realize that your day does not need to live up to anyone else’s expectations. No one cares if the laundry sits in piles for days. No one cares if my children lounge around in pajamas while doing their schoolwork. If I eat fast food for a week straight and gain 5 pounds, NOBODY CARES. Just me. And if I live as though it doesn’t matter (because in the end, it really doesn’t), then I’m living with joy. I’m living a productive life. I’m showing my children how to exist in a state of happiness. And that? That actually does matter.

I want big things in life. I really do. But I also understand that between now and when I might achieve those big things, I’ll change my mind 147 times about what those big things look like. By the time I’m 40, I might finally understand that “big” is a relative term. There are people living big lives – HUGE lives – where they impact many but enjoy very little notoriety for their efforts. Because it’s the doing that makes them happy. It’s not about being known for the doing. I’m not there yet, I’ll be honest. I want to have a big impact, and I want to shout it from the rooftops. But that’s because I’m still young and immature, and I don’t quite understand it all yet. I know logically that what I do is much more important than if I’m known for it. And I’ll get there emotionally. I will.

So for now, I’m worrying less about those big things, and much more about today. I’m writing this post without expectation, which has been a huge learning lesson for me. I stunted my writing growth because I thought I needed to write for others. I let the joy of blogging slip through my fingers, because I wanted it to be perfect for an audience that may or may not exist. That’s gone now. There are no expectations put upon me. I get to write when I feel a post bubbling out of me. And in between then? I just don’t. Who cares?

I wake up every day feeling joy. I’m ready to take on the world. And sometimes that means I walk around in a granny nightgown and slippers and I play on the internet all day. Sometimes that means I climb a mountain or I lay a hardwood floor. (For the record, I enjoy the former much more than the latter.) But what I do is not relevant. What matters is that I enjoy it. I’m finally learning to appreciate this choice I’ve been given to stay home with my children. How lucky am I?

I spent so much time searching for that elusive happiness. I doubted it would ever come. But by starting small and finding tiny ways to make myself feel joy, I stumbled into an entire existence of it.

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