Yesterday morning as I walked to my office, I had a “life is beautiful” moment of well-being. It wasn’t that the street I walk along is particularly picturesque - it isn’t, plus it was below freezing and dreary, and I was trudging along in snow boots in the left over muddy dredges of snow.
But it felt beautiful to me.
Life isn’t all beautiful, there is plenty of ugliness to be found, not to mention the crazy and horrifying direction this country, and the world, is heading in right now. Thinking of what’s to come from the highest office of power in this country is enough to send anyone back to bed in despair.
It’s ok if that’s how you feel.
It’s ok if that’s what you want to do today.
It’s ok to feel angry. I can tell you, I feel really angry. And I’m still figuring out what to do with that anger.
But I know that going back to bed in despair is not ultimately a strategy that benefits anyone, certainly not myself, my family, or anything that I believe in. If anything, it only serves to benefit those that would love for us to retreat into silence and subservience.
Resistance is not futile - it is necessary and critical to survival.
It doesn’t mean you have to march on Washington - although that’s great if you are. It doesn’t mean you have to make a bunch of phone calls to your representatives today - although that’s great if you are. It doesn’t mean you have to keep up with the news on an hourly, or even daily basis - although that’s great if you are.
What I believe it means is figuring out for yourself what it is you feel and what it is you need - what feels right to you.
There are so many voices, especially right now, telling us what to feel and what to do, it can feel really overwhelming. If you’re prone to empathy, it can be easy to take on everyone else’s feelings, and that is a hefty weight to bear at any time, let alone at a time of political and social upheaval.
Self-righteousness can also be a huge trigger - I’ve come to realize that the self-righteousness of others triggers my own self-righteousness, which leads to judgment, blame and ultimately victimhood.
I talked last week about how I’ve been reading Mindset, by Carol Dweck. Well, the book I decided on next after Mindset was Rising Strong, by Brene Brown, another great post-election read. I’m not quite finished, but I’m getting so much good stuff from it.
I’m going to share one quote relevant to what I’m talking about here which is this:
“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance.”
(This is actually a quote in Rising Strong from another one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection.)
I’ve been talking about resilience through joy, and I want to come back to that idea, because I’ve found it hard to reconcile despair over what’s unfolding in the world with day-to-day normalcy and yes, love, joy, and worthiness. In trauma and grief, it can feel wrong to feel joy. I know I’ve been feeling that.
And yet it’s more important than ever, and joy can be an act of defiance through which we can find resilience.
And it doesn’t mean that you don’t also feel horror and despair and anger and grief and all of those other emotions that may be coming up.
It doesn’t have to be either/or - it can be both.
Back to my “life is beautiful” moment - life IS beautiful. And life is ugly. And everything in between.
Goodness and love and joy and beauty have always been there and always will be, just as hatred and evil and fear have always been there and always will be.
I know, the “love and light!” messages rub me the wrong way too. Don’t not feel sad or angry or horrified. And you don’t have to create joy.
What has been helping me is looking for the joy and the beauty that is already all around us. It can be as simple as the way the light hits the sidewalk, or how my water tastes with a slice of lemon in it. It can be the cheeky grin on my son Jack’s face as he wiggles from side to side while he gets dressed. Or the pride and delight his older brother Liam takes in packing his own lunch.
It can be a warm pair of snow boots on a cold day. Or a kind email from an old friend. It can be eggs for breakfast, cooked by your husband as you rush around trying to get everyone ready. Or giant gobs of whipped cream on mugs overflowing with hot chocolate. Or toy construction vehicles carefully lined up in a row and ready to “work.”
Look through your camera roll on your phone. I bet it contains moments of joy that you’ve forgotten about, whether from a week ago or a year ago.
And use your camera - it can be on your phone - like a detective’s magnifying glass to follow the clues and find the joy, see the joy, experience the joy in the small day-to-day moments that we all have but so often overlook.
Focus on the emotions. Focus on how it feels, not how it looks. And see if you can do it just once a day.
As Martin Luther King, said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
If you would like, use the #resiliencethroughjoy hashtag to share the joy in your life while still acknowledging the fight we are in. This is not something I necessarily plan on heavily promoting, but more a personal tool that I am offering to you to, for your own use, if it resonates.
For more on finding joy and connection through photographing your kids, I invite you to check out my free 7-day challenge on taking better photos of your kids using only your smartphone. You can sign up for instant access.