My name is Amber Summer and I was born in 1989 in Ft. Myers, Florida. Here I am at 31 years old, residing in rural Tennessee, laying in my bed. An abandoned cup of coffee sits next to me, the long since cooled ceramic trying to demand space on my overly-crowded night stand. Similarly, each of my thoughts are fighting for space in my over-cluttered mind as I tap my fingers against this tiny keyboard in hopes of bringing you some wisdom.
Just as the coffee awaits my attention and the thoughts in my head fight for the limelight, happiness tends to be hidden in the sea of “what-ifs” and when ignored for too long, becomes something of a cold, forgotten cup of coffee. So how do we find joy in uncertainty?
This time last year, the pandemic and lock downs had been in full swing for a month. Fear, worry, and panic were the omnipresent emotions felt by all as brick-and mortar businesses were being shut down, toilet paper was nowhere to be found, and people were being forced into lay-offs or the WFH life. Do you remember how you felt during that time? Panic and fear are typically known as the antithesis to joy and happiness, but if there’s one thing this very challenging time has taught me, it is that people who want to find happiness and joy will find it, no matter what the state of the world is in and no matter how much uncertainty lies ahead.
Finding Joy with Natalie
A great example of someone who exemplifies this nature, is my client “Natalie” (the name of my client has been changed for privacy and confidentiality purposes). She and I had been working together for a few months by the time the shut-downs happened.
In March of last year, her job did not have the ability to function remotely, and she was forced to be quarantined for weeks with her family without much outside interaction. Her income came to a halt, and so did the securities of knowing where the next paycheck was coming from. Her family was low on funds, and even lower in certainty for what was to come.
As I worked with her each week, her tenacity for being joyful astounded me. I took some time to really hone in on what ingredients she had used to concoct her magic sauce. I was able to pull some hard and fast strategies she used to make sure her “joy” didn’t go cold during such a scary time.
Most notably, Natalie focused on what she could control.
In each and every moment, we are faced with the choice to focus on the gap (what we don’t have) or the gain (what we do have). No matter what trials and tribulations we are experiencing, this choice of focus is always in our court.
What Natalie showed me was that by focusing on the gain, she was able to make the most of all the things she still had in her life. She had more time with her boyfriend, her family, and her dogs now. She had time to focus on what she really wanted in life, whereas the hustle and bustle had previously been too distracting. We worked together to develop her plans for the future, and she started working on creating moments of intentional joy each day by reciting self-created affirmations. She didn’t ignore the sadness and fear, but she instead made room for joy to co-exist as well.
Natalie focused on allowing herself to feel happy, without guilt attached.
If I have learned anything, it is that so many of us have a guilt complex. (Are you reading this, saying “GUILTY!” ?) If you are, no worries, because I believe it is pretty common.
One belief Natalie had to work through was “If I am happy, it means someone else is not.” She had an upbringing that taught her that kindness was the result of self-sacrifice, and without pain there was nothing to be gained. Once she and I talked through this inner voice that was causing her to feel guilty, she decided that she no longer aligned with those previous “truths” she had been taught. “Why can’t I be happy?” she finally shared. “I am not stealing anything from anyone. In fact, I think I’m giving hope in a dark time.”
Finally, Natalie focused on things that brought her child-like joy without judgement.
As I am typing this, I realize that may sound prettttyyy strange. I mean, what is an adult doing acting like a child, right? That is not what I mean here. What Natalie did was start making things fun, just like one does as a child.
Do you remember running around outside, using your imagination, creating things out of nothing, and just having fun? Natalie realized pretty early on in the pandemic that she had not had pure fun in such a long time. So, we spent a session talking about all the things she loved that she could re-introduce to her life. She chose dancing during chores, sitting outside in the sunshine with a picnic, watercolor painting, and stickers!
Don't let the coffee go cold...
Natalie is a great example for how to find joy in uncertainty, but she is not the only example. A few of my clients did their own versions of the list above. The biggest takeaway is that uncertainty does not have to rob you of joy. Instead, it gives you even more reason to make the choice to intentionally do things that make you happy. Don’t let that coffee go cold, enjoy the sips while they are still warm. Life is hard, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Still need a a little more help finding joy? Check out this article, CannaBliss: Cultivating Joy with Cannabis.
Sending you love, light, joy and hope!