This post is part of my Joy Experiment series which is published every Monday-ish, and is a place to explore Joy (what it is, how to create it, why it’s important, etc).
Photo Credit: Lubs Mary via Flickr
So far I’ve shared some information I’ve read about joy, asked questions and pondered some about joy, and tried to express that it is important, but I realized today that I haven’t really said anything about why joy is important to me. So here goes…
Not everyone experiences joy. Not everyone knows how to. It’s not something they learned as a child.
Now I’m not saying that there were no happy moments in my childhood, but in all honesty, I grew up feeling alone and scared of being hurt (emotionally).
My parents separated when I was about three years old. My father was an alcoholic, and my mother is Korean.
What I mean is, my mom grew up during & after the Korean war, lost both of her parents before she turned fifteen, and learned to put emotions aside to take care of herself and her sisters.
You can’t worry about feelings when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.
This isn’t a sob story
I know that my parents loved me and they did the best they knew how with what they had.
But the bottom line is that I didn’t have many role models as a child to teach me what it meant to feel joy.
What I did have were role models for shutting down emotions.
My point here is that when you’re given enough reasons to stop engaging, you stop engaging.
Whether it’s numbing yourself with as much candy as you can get your eight year old hands on, hiding in your room writing abstract emo poetry as an eighth grader, or drinking an entire bottle of Chardonnay by yourself while watching The Princess Bride as a thirtysomething, you’ll do anything not to feel your feelings.
But there is a bright side
I always felt like there was something more to life than what I had known, so I searched. And I hoped. I believed in possibilities. I don’t know why or how I held onto that hope and belief, but it carried me through to adulthood.
I’ve spent most of my adult life learning to make friends with emotions. I’ve had to learn how to feel my emotions instead of running from them, avoiding them, and burying them under sugar, good grades, and whatever was on TV.
It has been a long and difficult process, with many tears. And I would recommend it to anyone.
Because real life happens where emotions live, not in a quart of ice cream.
Break on through to the other side
So here I am. On the other side. I’m a feeler. And I have a wonderful life filled with happy moments and plenty of room for whatever emotions come up.
And now, I coach other people through their own journeys to letting the emotions back in (also known as vulnerability in Brené Brown‘s language). I try to use what I’ve learned to help them make it a shorter and less difficult process than it was for me.
I love the moment when my client lets go of the hurt, the anger, the fear and opens up to what’s possible in their life. That’s joy.
And now, I want more.
I want to actively seek out JOY.
I want to understand how we feel it, express it, create it, share it, and teach it… so that I can help others find their way to joy, even when it feels impossible.
Because it IS possible. It may not be easy, in fact sometimes it can just suck, but a life filled with joy is possible if you want it badly enough.
And I do. I want it badly. For me. And for you.
And that is why joy is so important to me.