My spouse, like many during these weird, wonky, woe-filled times, has struggled to find equilibrium. Watching friends get sick, lose jobs, worrying about our own financial stability during tumultuous times, along with some hefty personal triggers around uncertainty-filled pandemics that were laid deep in his psyche during the AIDS crisis while watching friends and loved ones dying — all this and more has made for a complicated and not-always-happy space. And he’s a Laughter Yoga leader — so he KNOWS the power of happiness — he just could not seem to tap into it for anything.
“Physician, heal thyself” — brave words, hard to DO when you’re mired in the trenches. And for me, watching his struggle has been particularly heart-wrenching as I’ve tried to be supportive without smothering, mindful without mothering. So when he found something that worked for him, I was both hugely relieved AND thought it might be beneficial for others who are grappling with these nearly-incomprehensible times themselves.
A friend of ours started talking about how they were “cultivating joy”. This is obviously something I endorse whole-heartedly, and I think the specific metaphor works sublimely for those who are struggling with a current reality that feels barren and ugly.
Cultivating doesn’t mean “waving a magic wand” for InstaResults™.
Even the easiest and quickest of crops take time and effort. Just like a farmer might sample the soil, test the water, and compare seed suppliers, those who are engaged in cultivating joy may need to consider the environment in which they find themselves, the people with whom they interact, the ideas they allow to take root in their conscious and subconscious minds.
And like any diligent gardener, one might need to thin the crops, pull weeds, deal with bugs trying to nosh on those carefully-nurtured crops. And yes, there may even be the occasional major catastrophic event that throws the plans you had into chaos. Gardeners have dealt with drought, flood, fire, rampaging vandals, and other assorted “acts of god” for millennia, and so, too, will you, without a doubt.
And so I watch my spouse as he pulls the weeds, discovering and re-discovering opportunities for happiness, smiles, hope, and yes, joy. Sometimes we work together, and sometimes in solitude, as time, energy and attention allow. Not every day, not all day, but then, that’s not actually the goal, anyway. Sometimes there are irritations, sometimes stubborn rocks that take a lot of effort to move… but those bursts of positive emotion are the sweetest, healthiest harvest imaginable, well worth the work.
Will you give in, file emotional bankruptcy, or will you DIG in and figure out a path forward? #CultivatingJoy takes work, but the results are incredible food for the soul, and who knows… you might just have enough to share your bounty with others, too.