Lean into what brings you joy

What brings you joyI make cards for my husband. I started writing the cards when we were courting – moving towards reconciling our marriage. I write a little bit of what’s on my heart each day and then when the card is full, I leave them lying on our shared desk for him. The first few times, I bought cards. But then I thought I’d try something new and started painting them. Let’s be clear though, I am an accidental artist.

You see, Pinterest is my muse. I see something I want to try, usually I’m not even sure I can do it. But I know I can give it a college try. Now I make cards for him, for birthdays, for the office, and the pure act of creating brings me joy, especially when it’s for someone else.

I started to figure out along the way that joy was possible this way. I’d start a creative project and completely lose track of time. It was a little like meditation. My mind would focus on what was in front of me, nothing else. I can remember other creative projects I’ve tried in the past – short lived – thankfully there are no photos, but I was all in.

That’s how it is with writing. The other day I was wrapping up an online class I too, Daring Leader, through Brene Brown. Great class (don’t go looking for it though – she’s taken it down and created new content to coincide with her new book coming out in October – Dare to Lead) and as part of the final assessment I had to provide essay answers to a few questions demonstrating that I’d actually learned something and not just phoned it in. Because the course content is within my sweet spot, inner work for outer results, I became immersed and lost track of time.  It brought me joy.

While I’m loving exploring my creative side, it’s not without a little angst. The voice in my head still tells me I should be doing something. Painting, writing, those passions are mentally active, but not out and about active. Until the last couple of years, physically active was imbedded in my definition of doing something.

When I was about 40, I had started cycling and was training for my first century ride. I met a group of amazing cyclists and quickly got pulled into their orbit. The next few years I spent every free moment cycling. It was my social life, my exercise, and it got me outside, which I loved. We travelled by bike, rode to places in California I’d never seen even though I lived here my entire life. We competed in ridiculously long rides and along the way I met even more kind, generous hearted people. I looked forward to those events because of the accomplishment at hand as well as the camaraderie. They were my people.

Now?  My bike is hanging in my garage. I haven’t been on it in over a year. And I beat myself up about it for the first six months. It had been a big part of my life and when I’d go out for a ride, I was doing something.

What I’ve wrestled with is letting go of my own definition of doing. I believe the feeling that I need to be actively, i.e. physically, doing something at every minute of the day was someone else’s definition. It’s normal to adopt the definitions about life from those we spend time with. Letting go has been hard. I’ve had to push back on my internal, not so friendly dialogue. It’s a healthy process for anyone to go through, particularly at this phase of life. I’ve had reasons I stopped cycling, but it wasn’t easy. And I still long for that camaraderie. But challenging my thoughts about why I should do it was a healthy process.

I believe each of us would benefit from taking time to reflect on life and look at what truly brings you joy. What are you doing that makes you lose track of time? What are you involved in that you continue because it’s what you’re programmed to do? Programmed by someone else.

I am creative, it brings me joy and is an area I plan to expand, using it to connect with and help others. I think the two will go hand in hand. That’s the intention I’ve set, living out my authentic self. I’d encourage you to take a minute today and think about the patterns of your life. What are you doing that brings you joy? What are you doing that fits someone else’s definition of what it means to play, or work, or rest? Wrestle with how your authentic self would look at those areas. What would it take to be truer to the call of your heart. Today, be brave and take a step towards your true self.

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