Finding the Joy Within

I love my life.

I used to hate when people said that. There was no such thing. Life comes with the good and the bad, and if you love all of it, then you’ve been poorly deceived (or altogether privileged).

But a few years ago, I felt utterly unhappy with my life. Every time I thought I had found something good, it dismantled into a pile of sour mulch.

Take Norm, for example. Pets are supposed to make your life better, right? Not when you spend hours tending to their allergic reactions and thousands of dollars trying to make up for the fact that they’re allergic to 15 different things in the environment completely out of your control.

Sour mulch.

But that’s the thing about mulch. It shouldn’t have an offensive smell. If it does, then there’s some toxic buildup at play. And what happens when the mulch can breathe? It suppresses the weeds and eventually improves the soil’s fertility.

You didn’t come here for a gardening lesson though. You came here because, perhaps, like me, you want to know how to be happy. Continue reading

When One Window Opens

I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy two months. As much as I’ve tried to focus on the positive and take the space for recovery, there is a lot of healing to be had. Happiness is a fleeting moment. The toxic stress of uncertainty lies underneath its glimpses of hope.

But as I’ve told countless family and friends, even with this drastic change, my life now holds more meaning than it did just a few months ago. My everyday feels meaningful, even without purpose. Because for the first time in the societal reigns of financial liability, I am free to just be and re-learn all that once defined my childhood joy.

That doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven myself for getting into certain situations. This is part of my healing journey, and as my best friend so aptly reminded me, often a symptom of trauma. We blame ourselves more than the abuser, and it’s a cold, little heart. But rather than focus on the trauma, I choose to focus on the frame of opportunity.

Some days are easier than others, but just a few weeks into this new path, Norm – the six-year-old tabby that continues to astound me with his resilience – gave me a window of hope. Continue reading

Remaining Resolute

Last week, I was running through weeping willows along DC’s riverside. These trees reminded me of drives through Cherokee Park on Sundays in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Cherokee Park was designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known for Central Park, Biltmore Estate and many others. I’m currently reading about Olmsted’s part in the design of the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as Chicago World’s Fair) of 1893 in Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

And while this past month has not been plagued by the monstrosities of H.H. Holmes, deemed America’s first serial killer, it has been a whirlwind of events – a pattern, it seems, of this year in general. With all the upheaval that has taken place in my life this past year, one could say I’ve been ready for anything. And I’ve taken the changes in stride. Continue reading

When Stars Change Color

Change.

Humans are averse to change. We resist loss of control and excess uncertainty. No one likes living in ambiguity. And a few months ago, my entire world seemed replete of nebulousness. So, that left me with two options: accept the nebulous and make the most of it or ignore the nebulous and fall the victim.

There were three areas of my life that seemed to be in upheaval:

  1. Career
  2. Housing
  3. Relationship

I had three months before my lease on my apartment was up. This meant I would prioritize career, which would then influence home and lowest on the totem pole – my dating life. That would just be a bonus. Continue reading

Proceed Anyway

When I first experienced bullying in middle school, I sought my dad for advice. He told me to focus on my studies, ignore them, laugh in the face of criticism (that will throw them for a loop, he said, and it did) and above all, never doubt myself and keep on going.

A few months ago, my life took a sour turn. Every week I learned of news that would inevitably upend my personal and professional paths. How much worse could it get? And then, it got worse, so much so I felt I had become an expert at grieving.

Each week, I processed a new set of emotions – some for the loss of things and some for the emptiness that loss left behind. I was tired of being sad. So, one day, I came home from work, made myself a martini and started dancing and laughing in the kitchen. Take that life bully. If I had seemingly lost everything, then it meant I had nothing to lose and therefore could do whatever I wanted. My foundation was crumbling but that just meant I could build something new. Continue reading

Have Some Self-Compassion This January

January has always been a difficult month for me. With less sun and warm days and days off to look forward to, it’s easy to fall into a depressed state. I’ve been sleeping a lot more, and I have less energy to do the things I love.

The difference this year is I acknowledge it’s January (so simple, right?), and I know where my lack of energy is stemming from. For the next three weeks of the month, now that I’ve recovered from the holidays, I am making a commitment to write every day (not necessarily on this blog). It doesn’t have to be much — yesterday, I wrote two sentences — and it can take the form of any medium.

But I hope by making this commitment to myself, I can keep the winter blues at bay and find some fulfillment on the most challenging days. Sometimes, a little self-compassion and confidence can go a long way.

A few months ago, I was feeling a bit lost on my personal and professional paths. I was being particularly hard on myself for getting wrapped up in what I called “failed initiatives.” I had put myself out there, and I felt rejected. So, taking a cue from Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer when it comes to self-compassion (she wrote the book on it), I wrote a letter to myself, from the perspective of a close friend (I’ve included an excerpt below). Continue reading

Traveling Alone

August was a difficult month, for many reasons. I told one of my best friends recently: I feel like I’ve lost myself. I’ve been pushing myself for so hard for so long I’ve forgotten what makes me happy.

Last week, I learned about the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival, which took place Saturday. A friend and I (both avid readers) decided to check it out. It was madness. I couldn’t believe the crowds and felt proud to be among such a city of nerds.

And I remembered how much I love to learn, whether that’s about the sting acceleration of a jellyfish (up to 5 million g) or the divided friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. I may feel a little astray right now, but when it comes to learning and exploring something new, I am never lost.  Continue reading