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How do you name what is unnamable? I don’t know. Except, it is profound.

I find it difficult to describe it in the way I can give meaning to other emotions. My anger is full of fire; my irritation, a constant hot friction; my annoyance, ever-present and something I’d like to flick away.

But joy, instead, presents itself with subtlety. It whispers. If you are paying attention, though, you know when it is there. It passes through like a beam of light, illuminating everything, permeating every cell and hair and curve of your body. It is a resounding yes in a world full of nos.

My word of the year is joy. I plucked it from the ether, hung on the hopes of beginning again. It sounded lofty and unattainable. I tend to choose things like this because they are hard, because achieving them means I have done something. It means I am living a life and not simply taking up space.

But you cannot achieve joy, any more than you can achieve love. Nor can you possess it. It simply arrives one day, and then it leaves, sometimes all on the same day.

This summer has not felt like summer in all the ways it is supposed to feel. I’ve had exactly zero beach days and precisely the same amount of time to meander aimlessly through my city with no obligations. The things I love about summer are ones I haven’t had time to embrace.

But, in lieu of days that end with sand in everything, perhaps I’ve discovered something better. It has been a season of friendship. Of reconnection. Of community. I have found myself bonded in all ways, unexpected and humbling.

I remember the January day when I struggled to find a word, the idea of what this year would represent. I settled on joy—if you can settle on such a thing—and it felt right. Last year (and the year before that, and the year before that, and maybe even the one before that) was one long slog through emotional mud. Maybe I’d earned a bit of joy.

And then I went on with life. Every now and then I’d check my joy barometer. Nope, not yet, was always the answer.

Throughout the year, I manage to maintain a sense of wonder about the world. I look up and see clouds in wispy, angelic formations, sun rays beaming between buildings, birds playing and swooping in flight. Wonder is my thing.

But joy? Not so much.

And then, the fault lines of my inner landscape began to shift.

On the last morning of a fun birthday weekend a few weeks ago, I sat down for a meditation. Almost immediately, I was overwhelmed as gratitude washed over me, ebbing and flowing like the ocean at high tide. I felt humbled by the love I’d been shown.

I felt such deep gratefulness for the old friend who spontaneously asked if I wanted to meet for a cocktail, which turned into a fun evening where I’d felt more seen and understood than I had by anyone in years. For a generous friend I deem my fairy godmother, who gifted me with a birthday evening with more champagne and fun with a group of strangers than I thought possible. For girlfriends who make a day of wandering through new neighborhoods ridiculously fun. For co-workers who are kind and funny, always laughing in spite of the craziness of what we do for a living.

When I was done, I even felt a profound appreciation for the pigeons who take a breather from the summer heat on my windowsill.

This gratitude opened a doorway to joy. It didn’t shout its presence; it crept up slowly, kindly. Joy welcomed me, and beckoned for me to sit with it awhile. Maybe it’s always there, lurking just underneath the layers of irritation and annoyance.

I’ve wondered, how do you hold onto this thing, so blissful…yet slippery? The answer is stunningly simple: you don’t. You allow it to sneak up on you and, when it does, you let it permeate every cell and hair and ounce of you.

And then, you wait until the next time.

I have a number of things rattling around my brain and trying to hit the page. Separately they seem random and not at all connected.

Bear with me as I try to make sense of them all.

Thought #1: When I woke up this morning, the first bit of news I read in my email was of the passing of David Bowie. It immediately gave me a pit in my stomach. Now, if I were being honest, I wasn’t a super fan. But I did have an appreciation for his artistry and some of his music.

When I think of him, I think of a very specific time in my life. Junior high, me at 12 and 13 years old. Let’s Dance, China Girl, Modern Love. These songs, at a time when I was awkwardly transitioning into another phase of life, were pure joy. At a time when MTV was beginning to flourish, those videos were alive. I would stand in front of the TV in my older brother’s room—because my parents wouldn’t yet let me have cable TV—lip-synching and dancing as the videos played.

If there was one thing I learned in my adolescence, it’s when life gets tough, when you really don’t fit in, when you feel like a misfit, lock yourself in your room, and dance. To this day, when I hear Modern Love, I stop what I’m doing…and I dance.

Have I dated myself yet?

Thought #2: Over the weekend, one of my Facebook friends put up a very poignant post on Oprah and weight loss and how we feel about ourselves. (You should very definitely read it; click here. You’re welcome.)

In her essay, she mentions how she’s heard the phrase “get your life.” I’ve heard it before, but something about the way she uses it kept it stuck on a loop in my mind.  It can mean a lot of things (some not so positive), but it can be a simple as ‘get it together.’ Or, go out and get the life that you want. At least that’s how I’m choosing to spin it.

I want to get it.

Thought #3: I don’t believe in making resolutions. For me they are the equivalent of waiting to start a diet on Monday—and a set up to disappointing yourself. (See the link above.) While I love taking stock at the year’s end, I prefer to begin anew, with the months ahead feeling freshly scrubbed, all shiny and new.

I asked myself what I wanted from this year, and the answer was pretty simple. Joy. (See thought #1.)

I also think sometimes we make life more difficult that it needs to be. So, I simplify.

Instead, I’d rather ask myself who I want to be.

This year, it’s pretty simple. I want to see more sunrises and sunsets, and feel reverence in the miracle of another day. I want to laugh more—though, even when it gets hard, somehow I can always manage a giggle. I want to say a big YES to all the things I have wanted in my life, including some that are as spooky as a haunted house.

I want joy. I want to dance. I want to get it.

Look at me. Somehow, I managed to tie together three disparate thoughts.

As I figure out how to do and be all of those things, I may write less here or I may write more. We’ll see. There won’t be, for this year at least, weekly posts about what was good. Because I’ve decided, it’s all good.

Now, go get it.  I’d love to hear what you want from this year. Share in the comments below!

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

You may have noticed my absence last week. First I felt a little rundown. Then my throat felt funny. Then it was on fire. Then I got sniffly.

Before I knew it, y’all, I was down for the count. I actually, no joke, slept for the better part of 48 hours.

Life lesson #1: You can’t blog about what was good that week when you can barely lift your head off the pillow. So the goodness of week 37 was, I felt crappy and I rested and then I felt (mostly) better.

Now, onto week 38.

Imagine you’ve had a full weekend—when you haven’t fully recovered from the flu-ish thing you had—and after spending a beautiful morning with friends, you go home and take a nap. The nap feels so cozy and warm you want to stay in that space the rest of the day. But you can’t.

Because you signed up for some crazy yoga thing downtown.

So you make the trek to the southernmost part of the city to a helipad, which is a little inlet where helicopters take off and land throughout the day. This is where you will do SoundOff Yoga, or a class where everyone wears headphones, so you have music and the instructor’s voice piped directly into your ears. Actually there are two yoga instructors, both lovely spirits: Elena Brower and Jennifer Pansa.

The class begins as the sun begins to set, which is ridiculously awesome.

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As you downward dog, you see the layers of colors in the sky—peaches and pinks and blues. As the sky gets darker, the sliver of the moon illuminates its own corner of the universe, looking for attention.

And as the sky blue morphs into midnight blue, you look behind you to see what this group of yogis looks like in the dark. You see circles of blue, from each person’s headphones glowing around their ears.  Nothing you see in that moment has ever been more cool.

This was my Sunday.

As I lay down on my mat, the class winding down, one hand on my belly and the other on my heart, I opened my eyes and took in what was above me. The stars were peeking out from the darkening sky. A flock of birds circled and played overhead, as if they were blessing us with their joy.

As Elena spoke some final thoughts, she asked us to be present. She asked the question, how do we feel when we’re connected, when we’re in the flow? Joy, was her answer. Joy, connection, relief (relief? My quiet brain played with the word. And then, such sweet surrender in the ahhhhh, yes, this is how it should be)—that’s how you know when you are home.

I wish this for all of you.

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

 

My morning commute is my least favorite part of the day. If I have a pet peeve, someone is indulging it on the subway. Nail biters, nose pickers, close breathers—you name it, I see it.

I’ve started this thing—and I know this will sound cheesy—where I meditate on the train. I just close my eyes, try my best to breathe deeply, and I focus on a calming phrase. A mantra, if you will.  It’s harder than it sounds, getting quiet in the middle of morning chaos. But, I try.

My mantra these past few months has been, let go of what no longer serves you. It’s all about making room for new things.  So, I’ve just been focusing on that on my train ride, and when I get to my stop I feel calmer and more prepared to begin my day.

One day, as I’m repeating this over and over, another thought popped into my head. It was as clear as if someone had whispered it in my ear.

Joy is your birthright. 

I’m sorry, what????

Like Kevin Costner in the middle of all that corn in Field of Dreams, something spoke to me.

If I’m being really honest, sometimes this happens. (I know…now things are getting goofy.) Usually, though, it’s a hunch or a feeling that stands out from all the other chatter.  I’ve learned to pay attention when this happens.  Those instincts have never led me astray.  But this, this crystal clear voice all full of knowing and wisdom, was different.

Joy is your birthright.

It startled me. And then it made me giggle.

I hope joy surprises you, too.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Sometimes I wonder if I have a limited capacity for joy.

It’s not that I don’t have happy moments. I mean those stretches of time, however brief they may be, when joy permeates every inch of me, when it reaches into the deepest part of me and I feel whole.

I traveled nearly halfway around the world hoping to catch a glimpse of it.

On my last morning in Tuscany, I got up early and walked around the resort property. (As an aside, I highly recommend this. Waking early to roam with no confused tourists or harried locals, is one of the best ways to know a place—untainted by other people’s energy.) I walked around, inhaling the fresh, warm morning air, listening to the symphony of cicadas in the trees, feeling the stillness all around me. I walked and explored, ambling along and doing my best to take in this country that I love so much.

The sun, up for an hour or so, began to warm the earth. Nature was springing to life, though still half asleep.

Look over there, the earth said. Beyond the vines of grapes was a band of gold as far as the eyes can see.

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Even from far away, the field of sunflowers was breathtaking.

Imagine seeing this in the quiet of the early morning,

I looked up and around me. I was so moved by the beauty of the landscape. No, moved is too light of a word. I felt a deep reverence for the place.

Walk a little farther, the path said to me. I listened.

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It was as if the country and I merged, its energy wrapping its way around every inch of me, every organ, every cell, every piece of my soul.

And there it was.  Joy.

xo, with goodness and grace.

You can spend hours, days, even years, looking for something to move you in the deepest part of your being, and it will elude you. Sometimes those things only find you when you let go.

There came a moment this week when I decided to stop searching. I was tired and anxious and stressed, and then there came a brief moment when I said, enough.

I decided to let joy find me.

A funny thing happens when you decide to give it all up and trust. The world doesn’t end, the lights don’t come crashing down, and the water supply doesn’t dry up. In the space after you surrender, there is calm.

Joy, I’ve realized, is not always a booming, thundering, galloping thing. Joy can be in the sweet stillness; it can be in a lyric you’ve sung a thousand times that never fails to hold truth for you; it can be in the familiar taste of a meal lovingly prepared.

Joy is just sitting there waiting to be discovered.

It’s in hidden corners of my favorite store—ABC Carpet & Home, my happy place—where spirit and grace and just footsteps away.

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Such sweetness can creep in when you give up expectations.

This morning, I took my time getting out of bed, enjoying the beautiful moments that lay between sleep and wakefulness. As I began to get up, ready to start my day, I noticed the way the light shone on the building across the street. The unmistakable peach glow lit up the street, and I knew the sun was rising. I crawled to the edge of the bed and between two buildings I could see the sun peeking through. The spectrum of color in the sky ranged from blues and lavender to pink and amber. It was enchanting. I sat there for a few minutes and just took in the view, mesmerized.

And for those moments, all that existed was joy.

I hope you find that, too.

xo, with goodness and grace.

After an emotionally exhausting couple of weeks, I decided enough was enough. It was time to take back control.  This meant deciding to be happy.

To be clear, things didn’t magically become sunshiny and spring-like.  Literally, it’s winter and cold and snowy; metaphorically, I decided to accept the season for what it is.

There were many small moments where the clouds began to part in the skies, so to speak.  As I left work on Friday, I walked towards the Hudson River hoping to catch the sunset.

With its pink and peach and amber tones, it didn’t disappoint.

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And then there was today.

Sunday is normally the one day I can sleep in, which I value deeply.  But this morning I changed things up and went for a SoulCycle spin. I hadn’t been in a couple of weeks, and I remembered whenever I am stressed, it’s important for me to give an outlet to all of that energy.  So, I work out.

There, right on the bike this morning, I found a taste of joy.  It was palpable in the room.  It was like a Sunday morning church service.

The instructor, a pint-sized powerhouse ball of good energy, talked about having taken a dance class the night before.  So unused to choreography, she felt silly. But, as she said, she kept going even though she wanted to hide in the corner.

“I don’t hide,” she said.  “And neither should you.  Don’t you dare let fear make you hide.”

And there was my directive for the week ahead.

No matter what is going on in your life, I hope you find room for joy.  And don’t you dare hide.

xo, with goodness and grace.

An odd thing happened this week.  I felt happy.

Isn’t it funny how when you feel joy, for no reason at all, it unsettles you?  Every now and then I’d stop and think about the feeling I was having.  What is that?  Oh, this is what happiness feels like.

I wanted to grasp on to the feeling, but you know what happens when you do that?  The feeling goes away.  So, I allowed myself steep in a jovial state of mind. For as long as it wanted to stay, I would welcome it.

As I ran errands yesterday, I came upon the Flatiron Building, a place I’ve walked by hundreds of times in the years I’ve lived in New York City.  I’m fascinated by its architectural details and am always trying to find new ways to photograph it.   I took out my camera phone, and I began shooting straight up.  After a few frames, I noticed a spectrum showing up in the pictures.  I moved the camera away, then looked directly at the sky.

My heart lept.  My social media feeds are full of other people’s pictures of rainbows, but they have been elusive to me.  So to look up and see one, directly above me, seemed like a miracle.

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I just smiled. I felt so happy.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I’ve got joy on my mind.  Perhaps it’s because I’m finding less time to visit with it.

While I figure out how to invite it in more often, I’m noticing how we find comfort in so much other than joy, like bonding over hurt and annoyances and complaints.  In figuring out what where my attention should go, I realize I want to connect less on there being too much work or feeling really tired or things are just seeming ridiculously hard.  And though all of that may be the truth, there is an equally true opposite point of view.

So the question becomes, which frame of reference will you claim?

I do my best to look towards the light, both in reality and metaphorically, and though I’m often guilty of it, I’d rather not succumb to the tendency to be that girl who bonds over her wounds.

Today is the most beautiful, sunny autumn day, the kind that still holds onto the sweet promises of summer.  I’m sitting outside, listening to other people’s conversations.  I’d rather not talk about how the sun can burn or how blindingly bright it is or how photos come out more interesting when it’s cloudy.

I’d rather stand in the sun and marvel at how warm it is, how it lights my life, how it fills my soul. How its vivid light may block the view of what’s in front of me, but forces me to see in ways beyond my eyesight. How good it feels to bask in the happy beauty of its yellow light.

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I’d rather talk about how the sun equals joy.

I’d rather tell you about the band playing in the park as I write this, how the singer’s voice is deeply soulful—singing in that way that makes you feel deep
down in your soul—how it is the perfect soundtrack for this unusually warm day, how it feels like the epitome of joy.

This is what I would tell you today.  And just the acknowledgement of that fills me with joy.

xo, with goodness and grace.

One night after work, I went for a long walk and ended up inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral near Rockefeller Center.  Everyone needs a place where they can go for a respite from the overwhelming duties of life, and this is mine.  I am not Catholic, not even particularly religious, but that doesn’t really matter.  It is a space that calls to me, offering up reverence and devotion and grace in every corner. Weekday nights are especially comforting, with the tourists back in their hotels or long since home.

It has been under construction for some time, but even with the scaffolding it is still majestically beautiful.

St Patricks Interior

At first it gave me pause to think that it has been under construction for so long, but aren’t we all?  We are all being remade every day, shaped by our difficulties and our triumphs, and somehow we too emerge more beautiful.

And, it’s always helpful to know that angels are among us wherever we turn. Seeing them in candlelight fills me with joy.

Angel in Candlelight

xo, with goodness and grace.

The words “I’m tired” have been on a constant loop in my head lately, as I try to fit so much life into each day.  (I usually end up failing miserably and, well, tired.)

Last night I went grocery shopping and began cooking as soon as I got home, forgetting completely about the tulips that I bought.  Once I remembered them, I cut the stems and put them in water.

They were limp, lifeless and lackluster, all of their bright pink heads lying on the table.  I went to bed, resigned to the fact that my neglect of the flowers meant for their untimely demise.

I awakened this morning and was greeted with flowers doing their normal tulip-y thing, simultaneously floppy and upright.  I felt unexpected joy on a Sunday morning.

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A reminder that sometimes all we need is a pool of water and some rest to recharge.  Here’s to a good week!

xo, with goodness and grace

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Marketing slogan in a New York City subway car.

I was sitting at my work desk, typing away on one of my projects.  From behind my colleague, who was about to leave her post after many years, walked up to me and wordlessly wrapped her arms around me.

She held on to me, and I sunk into her mama bear embrace, squeezing her back, tightly.

“I walked by and realized that I haven’t done that enough, if ever.”

We make lives for ourselves that are all about achieving and being masters of our businesses, but in the midst of those lives we sometimes forgo simple kindnesses. And we forget the power of human contact. Touch matters.

There is joy in being told that you matter, even when it isn’t spoken in words.

Walking through Central Park on a beautifully clear and crisp fall day, I’d hoped to shake some of the restlessness I felt on a rare Monday off.  Walking helps me do that; it helps me clear the cobwebs of the dusty old to-do lists that clutter my mind.  It helps me work through whatever worry has wrapped its way around my thoughts.

There’s no more therapeutic place for me than Central Park.

Though I’d missed the peak of the visual symphony of autumn in the park this year, I was still charmed by its beauty.

And then I turned a corner and saw the biggest bubbles I’d ever seen in my life.  I was mesmerized.

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Since I was a child, bubbles have never ceased to make me smile.  Such a simple thing still grounds me in joy.

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And, there was the happiest little boy who was captivated by the bubble man’s magic.  He wholeheartedly embraced the joy of the moment, too.

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What joyful magic made its way into your day?

This week’s change of season was precipitated by a wave of changes in the lives of people around me.

One of my colleagues got engaged.  Over the last few months, she’s been trying to convert a very reluctant me to join the world of online dating, telling me tales of her friends who met their mates online.  Now she has her own happy-ending case study to prove her point.

Another co-worker worked her last day, off to start a new life with her fiancé in a new city.  We’d developed the kind of friendship where we could just look at each other and know what the other was thinking.  She offered a sense of belonging when I’d gotten used to not feeling part of the whole.  I already miss her.

My favorite manager at my favorite restaurant responded to an email of mine with the news that he’s moving on to another job in another restaurant.  He was a big reason why I’ve become a regular—often bringing my favorite drink before I’d ordered, remembering my love of truffles, and laughing in conversations where we caught up on each other’s lives.  All of it made the delicious food taste even better. I will continue to go, but I already know that something will be missing.

As for me, nothing dramatic happened.  (Though, I did buy— and wear—a pair of skinny jeans for the first time in my life.  And I looked good in them.  I suppose if there was ever a life-altering moment, that would be one.)

But, I feel that something is shifting in me.  Somehow I know I’m not at the crossroads any longer.  My footsteps are traveling down a new path, though I cannot see where the road is leading just yet.  As I wait for that shift to manifest itself in my life, I remain present and focused on following the joy.

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Change is in the air.  I’m just going with it, with love in my heart, as I wait to see what’s on the other side.

Today marks the third anniversary of Goodness, Grace and Grub!

After trying to find a quote relevant to a third anniversary, I realized that this spoke perfectly to what I wanted to say:

All you need is love.

— The Beatles

In the three years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been seeking joy in sunrises and food and all the little things in life. In paying attention to these things, I’ve learned what I already knew: that love is the point. Without love in what you do, love for the people around you, and – perhaps most importantly – love for yourself, nothing has much meaning. As a seeker of joy, I understand now that I’m really just seeking love.

What I know now is that it has always been there, just waiting for me to acknowledge its presence.

And so, on this anniversary, I’m wishing all of you the knowingness that love is all around you. Embrace it and let it change you.

It is the goodness of life.

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