It really sucks walking around this planet, sometimes. Even as a committed optimist you are going to take some blows that will sap your soul and drop it into a deep dark hole. Something like ten percent of the population have personality disorders. Some of them are going to cross your path. Sociopaths are going to crop up in surprising places. Some really bad shit is going to go down on occasion by no fault of your own. People you trust will betray you. You’ll find your self face to face with wicked malice that you cannot even comprehend. There will be loss. You are going to suffer.
Believe it or not, this is actually a post about protecting joy (hang on its coming), but the cold hard reality is that there is unavoidable anguish in this journey. I recently saw a quote that said something to the effect of every woman will reach a point when she has to decide whether or not to become bitter after years of dealing with life’s struggles. I would add that once you reach this place, you are going to have to make this decision again and again. You are going to have to decide day after day as life knocks you on your ass, to get back up again. It was only when I began to realize that the quest should not be for a life without strife, but rather for a badass attitude that fights ferociously to preserve joy in the face of adversity, that I became quickly able to recover from any shit storm that blows my way.
I’m climbing out of a rut now. We recently returned from an 11-day vacation that included a 2,000 mile round-trip drive. It began like this; two parents, one young adult, three teens, and two traumatized littles all smiles setting off for 22 hours in a 15-passenger van. It ended like this: two sleep deprived parents considering driving said 15-passenger van off a bridge.
Let’s just say it hasn’t been my finest hour.
Physically exhausted from sharing a small hotel room with a child who does not sleep and is prone to disturbing misdeeds when unsupervised and emotionally exhausted from handling anxiety triggered regression into frequent toddler-like tantrums of another child, I returned to modern American life and stepped directly into the trap of the current soul sucker in my life.
It was dark for a minute, but I’ve been feeding my inner fire. As the self appointed Queen of my own life, I’ve developed defenses to protect my reign and there’s no hole deep enough to keep me down. Because I’m nice like that, want us all to rule our own queendoms, and need a little attitude adjustment of my own, I’m going to share my methods for fortifying my crown.
Pajama Mama’s 10 Tips for Flipping off Funk
1. Find a group of intelligent women with whom you can liberally use the word “fuck.” I’m not talking about some ladies who just tolerate it. You need some gals with a true appreciation of and are themselves well versed in the art of profanity. This is especially important if you live in a very religious or conservative community. There is great delight in the harmless juvenile rebellion and nothing quite so satisfying as a well placed F-bomb.
2. Guard your integrity. Vow to never say anything negative about anyone else’s appearance. Avoid personal attacks when dealing with conflict–stick to the behavior. It’s really as easy as that. Just don’t do it any more. I discovered when I stopped criticizing others, I began to feel better about myself. It’s really easy to slip into a pattern of pulling others down to lift ourselves up. In the end, we all just wind up in a heaping pile of ugly.
3. Find some people who will be ridiculous with you. I have the great fortune to have a daughter who shares my love of shenanigans and some friends who aren’t afraid to play dress up. My darling daughter and one of my lady loves recently accompanied me to an eye exam dressed in feather boas and tiaras as I worked to overcome the trauma I have associated with my vision. If you want the details, they are here. Now, instead of recalling horror when I think about my last eye exam, I smile and remember my fearless friend Sharri telling the examiner who was not even slightly amused by our production, “You should have seen us at the gynecologist.”
4. Stop trying to please everyone (also known as the practice of giving zero fucks). You never can and you risk becoming a door mat to the sociopaths. Be kind, do good, be unapologetically you and don’t take any crap. Some people won’t be able to handle the paradigm shift and will walk away. That’s cool–I hope the door doesn’t hit them on the ass.
5. Steer clear of religious extremists. In my experience, the louder someone proclaims their faith, the harder they are working to conceal their corruption. Anyone spewing hate or practicing unethical behavior based on religion is dangerous and you need to turn your cheeks and run.
6. Exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon, just move your body. In the eloquent words of Elle Woods, ” Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
7. Recognize that there are some things that you will always be sad about, but don’t let them define you. Weep when you need to-it’s good for you. Really. Crying releases toxins, reduces sadness and anger, reduces risk of heart disease, and can improve bonds with those who support you through your tears.
8. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Seek to love everyone, but be careful who you trust. Not everyone is on the same path to self-improvement and there are a lot of broken moral compasses out there. Keep the circle small and show toxic components the way out–again, the door/ass thing.
9. Learn to let go. Write it down and set it on fire, meditate, dump it on the profanity pack in step one, or do whatever you’ve got to do to put down the anger you’ve been carrying around. Recognize that much of the ugly that comes your way has everything to do with the deliverer and nothing to do with you. If after some honest soul searching, you can see that your own hands are messy, own it, clean it up, make amends and move on. You can’t change the past. You can’t control other people. put on your crown and keep moving forward.
10. Focus outside yourself. Be a better friend. Walk with others through their grief. Express your appreciation to the loves of your life. Throw yourself into service. When my Sailor Boy left for bootcamp, I was nearly disabled with grief. Within days of his departure, I took in two Foster children and in the coming weeks fostered multiple litters of puppies. I spent so much time managing maladaptive behaviors, cleaning up poop and taking puppies to the vet then adoption events that my pain was not my constant focus. I did, however, develop a contempt for puppies (at least 7 at a time.)
So that’s my recipe for keeping joy alive. Feel free to take it, leave it, add some optional wine, or print it out, write down your fury on the back and throw it in the fire. I’m going to get my head on straight over number 2, practice some 4, 5, 6, and 8, polish my crown and move on.