On Sunday, I was introduced to Joy
I spent April 7-12 at a deeply personal workshop exploring my subconscious. I worked alone or in very small groups. It was a an opportunity to do real, deep, inner-work and unearth the experiences that were manifesting in my daily life as anxiety, self-doubt, and stress. The best part was this experience provided tools and exercises to actually remove these connections my brain was making in error and allow me to start fresh. (For example, it’s pretty obvious to see why success has been elusive. My mind had associated being successful with feelings of stress, loss of time with my kids, loss of my relationship and anxiety. I could see why I kept pushing it away. Who would want that? So I redefine success with positive experiences: flexibility, learning, financial stability, the ability to help others, travel and happiness and suddenly success FEELS good.)
Looking back on my life there has been a lot that has happened that maybe isn’t in the realm of “normal”. The loss of many friends and important family, experiences with sexual violence, depression. But I also have had my fair share of really amazing joyful moments. Yet it was the joyful moments, not the horrific ones, in my subconscious had been stifled and blurred. I had created a protective numbness to them. Turns out I can handle the pain of what life can dish out but I could not handle the joy.
It was on Sunday when I had this powerful awareness. Experiencing joy meant allowing myself to accept and be aware of all that I could possibly lose. Experiencing joy somehow meant to me that I was not honoring those who left my life suddenly and tragically. Experiencing joy meant to me that I was selfish and that I was not trying hard enough. I was not worthy of experiencing joy.
That moment I became aware that I had connected happiness and joy with loss, fear and the anxiety of thinking, “I am not good enough to deserve to feel this”, my whole world changed. I broke down sobbing. At first for all the joyful moments I didn’t allow myself to fully feel: my wedding day, the day my girls were born, client wins, compliments, weight loss, I cried for it all. And then I walked, aimlessly around the Marriott grounds. Feeling the sun on my face, letting the tears come when they needed to. Feeling the knot in my stomach and throat lessen and being replaced with purposeful breaths.
The session day was winding down. It was then I heard this very unique music coming from inside the large conference room. I had been told at the end of this part of the course each day there would be dancing and I had told anyone who was listening that I would not be participating. But the music, a jig of sorts with Asian influence (I think), drew me into this room where about 400 people from around the world were joyfully laughing and trying to learn the steps. I stood in the back and watched, smiling from ear to ear, uncontrollably. I peered around the man in front of me to nervously glimpse the woman holding the microphone explaining the moves. It began. 400 people from all over the world holding hands in a serpentine kickline dance. Each one smiling and laughing. Behind me sat a young boy about 12 years old. I had seen him around. He didn’t speak much English. He was somber and looking at the floor. I smiled and motioned to him to come with me. He shook his head ‘NO’. I walked over and smiled and again and asked for a high-five. He gave it reluctantly. I looked at the room full of people, dancing, present, alive and I looked at the boy alone, somber, withdrawn. And I began to reach for a chair to sit with him when I stopped myself and it occurred to me: I look for the outlier in situations to keep me from experiencing joy. It was like a bolt from deep in my own consciousness that struck me. I had goosebumps. I had tears in my eyes. I waved goodbye to the boy, took a deep breath, and grabbed the hand of the man at the end of the dance line. And I never looked back. I danced, beaming, in a room full of strangers for the next 6 minutes and when it was done I went out the doors to the courtyard, leaned against the wall, slumped down and cried tears of joy. My first ever. It was the most powerful feeling I have ever experienced. Everything felt brighter, everything felt lighter. Parts of me had feeling that had been numb for my whole life. I met joy on Sunday April 10th, 2016 and she was beautiful, welcoming, safe, warm and totally unfamiliar.