I wish it were as easy as scooping people up and letting them know how much they mean to us – how much we love them – that they brighten our days. But the darkness prevails for some and their demons are fierce. Our voice isn’t strong enough, in the end, to drown out their blackness. Daily suffering and pain. How can we help lift it, help carry their weight? Such sensitive souls – feeling everything more intensely. The highs. The lows. The relentless insecurity and doubt.
It’s a disease. A deadly one taking too many lives. Too many friends. And we don’t have a cure. But don’t stop trying. To listen. To learn. To help. And sometimes we just need to barge in and be inappropriate, be uncomfortable.
If you are gone, the collective ‘we’ have failed.
You are loved. You matter. And you are greatly missed.
Perhaps it’s odd, but I’ve always enjoyed the adventure that solo travels brings.
Along the way you battle the assumptions of others – you must be a bit sad; have no friends; be trying to find new friends . . . but solo isn’t sad. It’s expansive. The truth is it might just be about new. Pushing the boundaries of routine. Contemplating your self and your mind even the way you interact with others.
Yes, moments of lonliness inevitably strike – and that’s part of the charm, part of the challenge and evolution – truly missing people and really exploring what that means. Contemplating what the people in your life add to your everyday existence on this little planet of ours. And certainly not taking it for granted.
So maybe, instead of being isolated, solo travel is about reflection and reinvigorating the role others play in our lives and loving them even harder. Now that’s gratitude. And gratitude is the shortest path to JOY.
I was recently invited to a dress up Halloween party. And I LOVE dressing up in costume. After toying with a few ideas I decided to dress up as Cinderella’s ugly stepsister. And wow, being a very ugly version of myself proved to be very JOYful! Maybe it’s the push back against a society geared towards making us feel just south of pretty. We buy frocks, fancy shoes, luscious lipstick, cultivate new hairstyles and even polish our toes just to feel a subtle shade more ‘pretty’. Sure, there’s a ‘plain’ undercurrent as well, people who celebrate being make-up free and feel the need to promote it on Instagram. And speaking of pics, you can’t walk 50 meters in Bondi without interrupting a photo shoot. Selfies have become normal in every public setting and filters on offer provide just the right glow.
We’ve become obsessed with the surface. So to actively make my surface a little bit hideous felt naughty and intriguing. And when folks at the party realized there were actual whiskers growing out of my mole. . . . well, you can understand my JOY! Go ahead, push against the norm, embrace your ugly bits and see if you can find some JOY.
During a great conversation with my fabulous partner, I asked him if he had the chance to reflect . . . but before I could go further he said – ‘Nope!’ I laughed and then checked in to see what he meant. He offered, “I don’t hold up a mirror and reflect. I think I prefer a window – I like to look out.”
Wow! I think we’ve just cracked another Mars v Venus layer. Almost every woman I know spends a lot of time reflecting. And not just on her life, her actions, and her words, but the life, actions, and words of others! I see it unfold in the business world, daily. After a big presentation, my female CMO immediately dives into motivations behind individual comments, reading into tone and gestures displayed, even eye contact or lack thereof. I have yet to hear these themes debated by the males who were in the same meeting.
And it goes further. When a woman reflects on the behaviors of those she loves, she often can’t stop herself from offering ideas and ways to improve their particular situation. And guess what, when those observations are offered up to her male partner, he probably sees it as nagging. Why? Because he’s looking forward . . . out that damn window.
Find some JOY in a new perspective.
I recently started taking harmonica lessons. I love the challenge of learning something new and I’ve already had little glimpses of JOY. After two lessons I’ve been able to just eek out the preamble to a famous Beatles tune. While sitting at an airport last week, I found a quiet corner to practice my homework. I was conscious of not intruding on the soundscape of others, so I was playing extra softly, facing a window. When I packed up to find my gate, I turned around and was a bit flabbergasted to find a small crowd of people surrounding me. One very excited woman rushed up to me and said “That was wonderful! They should have you here every day – your music is so calming.” Ha! You can imagine my surprise that my novice efforts were met with such positive enthusiasm. The crowning glory was when she added: “This is the best thing that’s happened to me at an airport.” JOY is definitely magnified when it’s shared.
While swimming in the ocean a few weeks ago I took a leap. Or rather, a flip. I turned onto my back and played with reaching my arms overhead and finding a backstroke. Having assessed my surrounds I felt confident I wouldn’t crash into a surfer or land mass – even if my first attempt took me into circles or obscure zig zags. Given the surf, my first time was short lived but I caught a glimpse of JOY along the way.
Trying again in a pool, I waited for a lane to clear out – avoiding probable collisions and potential ejection from the club, not to mention eternal shame. Much to my amazement, I ended up swimming rather straight with my new found stroke. I only hit the lane marker a few times and somehow even avoided hitting my head a the end of the 50 meters.
Even more surprising – I had a loopy smile plastered across my face the whole time. There’s something about opening up the front of the body that feels both vulnerable and freeing. Face to the sky – watching clouds and birds float by broadened my smile. And blindly stretching your arms overhead – not fully knowing where they’ll land .. .well, bliss. Maybe it’s the JOY of the unknown, not relying on our eyes, or just falling in love with another first. But a child like glee certainly ran through my body.
Give it a go! See how much JOY you can find with one good flip.
I came across an interesting perspective recently – mulling over if gratitude and ambition were at odds in ourselves. It’s a fascinating topic. After all, we seem to be designed to push ourselves, to do more, to be more, to grow and to win. And forward motion is certainly attractive. It keeps us consuming and helps us focus on our goals. What would the make-up or even wellness industry thrive on if we weren’t slightly obsessed with being ‘better’ versions of ourselves? At our core, we want to accomplish things no matter how grand or small. Even on holidays or long weekends, we tend to prepare a mental list of ‘what I did’ items that can be shared with others when they inevitably ask us to reflect on the time we just experienced.
Where does gratitude fit in? Gratitude asks us to be grateful today. To give thanks for exactly what we have right now. No projecting into the future, no longing or hoping for more or different. Just here. Just now. If we’re grateful for who we are and what we have, does that automatically mean we’ll want to achieve or strive for less?
I’m sure ambition and gratitude can co-exist yet it’s an interesting pull. For me, I love challenges and it’s important to set goals and celebration accomplishments – but the balance has shifted to knowing I am and I have ‘enough’. That’s pure JOY.