No More Being Afraid of Joy

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I had a more difficult week (two weeks), and then I don’t want to write. Well, more to the point, I don’t want to be vulnerable to you. Why did I have to open my mouth at the beginning of all this and commit to being transparent in an effort to help others?

(headbang)

In strong moments, I know. In rough ones, I lose sight of it. I want to retreat and isolate. And that’s okay, I’m not condemning it. Sometimes it’s actually good self-care. Right now it’s more just …. I don’t know. More comfortable, I guess.

Safe.

I read book reviews on Amazon and it makes me never want to write another blog post. I fall into the abyss of comment threads on random social media posts and articles, and it makes me never want to write another blog post (or share another thought). Truly, I am not brave enough.

And then I read one vulnerable sentence that one stranger writes, in a poem or in a post, and I am reminded of the healing value of truth, and of people being brave enough to share theirs.

How many more times will I need to circle this block?

At least once more.

Here’s the thing I’m starting to really see and want to share, though: we really do eventually grow through the dirt and begin to bloom. The dark really is temporary, even if it’s a long temporary. It is not the end. It is where seeds multiply and life begins.

I’ve wanted to dance since I was a little girl. I didn’t, not even in the privacy of my own little world. But I wanted to. I lived vicariously through books about dancers, and shows about dancers, and friends who took dance. Once that I remember, I danced at a school dance. Seventh grade, I think. A few times in my twenties, I did, in a group, some things that were choreographed – mostly for total strangers (so, the perceived risk was low). I may have done an Electric Slide or Macarena here or there in years since, but I’ve never been brave enough to actually dance (freestyle, all me) at weddings or anywhere else. Never. My fear has grossly outweighed my longing.

But, oh, how I’ve longed.

(*swallows hard*)

In the last few weeks, we’ve attended two weddings. And it feels really naked to tell you this, but I had a paramount breakthrough. Amidst/despite – maybe even because of –  this place I have found myself in recently that feels (is) so dark and difficult, uncharted and discouraging, I have surprised myself and broken through to the surface even so, and 

I danced.

It wasn’t pretty, and I truly have no idea what I’m doing, but I FINALLY muscled past the “I don’t know what to do” and “I’ll look so ridiculous” and other things too personal for here, and I just took my shoes off and went to the dance floor. I sensed a lot of the awkwardness falling away, and I felt like sobbing. I felt free. It was strange to feel joy in this unscripted, unchoreographed, backwards, clumsy way. And, it changed my life. I truly didn’t care how it looked, because I realized that no one ever really cared but me. I joined the throngs of people having a great time, and I genuinely smiled. I laughed with my daughter, I laughed with my husband, I laughed with dear friends.

(I also learned a secret that was somehow lost on me for all these years: only about four out of the 60 people on any given dance floor at a party can actually dance. Everyone else was just like me – clumsy, winging it, and just doing it for the sake of having fun. Anyone can dance.)

It’s a very strange thing, taking your spirit back. Finding, and allowing, your joy. Casting off shackles and throwing your hands in the air. But that is where the freedom is. That is where the me I’ve longed for is waiting. The more of these moments I have, the more I realize it’s never been that I need to create myself or find myself; I have ALWAYS been inside here. I’ve just needed permission – most importantly, my own – to come out and be.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be brave enough to dance at my own children’s weddings. No more.

I was afraid that I will never find my way out from the dark. No more.

And listen, that dark is still quite real for me. There are a lot of seeds that still need to make their way to  and through the surface, and the process is difficult for each one. But these recent colossal breakthroughs have galvanized me to fight for more and more of what awaits on the other side. No more being afraid of joy.

NO MORE BEING AFRAID OF JOY.

And yes, joy is scary – at least for me. What could be more vulnerable than joy?! Need is vulnerable, as are trust and love. But joy  …….. joy is us, unrestrained. Embracing. Receiving. BE-ing. It is beautiful, brave, and – for some – terrifying. But living without restriction is where life is really at, and I want to LIVE. I want to truly live!

And, as I stay present for joy even just for minutes at a time right now, I am remembering crumbs of joy I stole and hoarded in earlier years – crumbs that aided survival. Bits of glee and brief dabbles of imagination and creativity. The beautiful silence of underwater. The thrill of flying forward in a swing. Hiding in the shadows on the dark, cool grass during neighborhood games of kick-the-can on a summer night. A letter in the mail from a friend. Being able, even just once, to jump successfully into the center of a double-dutch jumprope session. Realizing the fireflies were back and putting on a show for the night sky.

I am remembering. RE-MEMBERing. The pieces of me are finding their way back together. Back to whole. Each time I press through, another space in me is being restored.

It’s not, I’m realizing, that I never had any joy. It’s that I felt like I had to hide it away. Keep it secret. Eventually, avoid it altogether. But no more. I don’t want to avoid it any more.

We were wired for joy. Even me. Even you. Maybe, for now, we can hold hands while we slip our shoes off and make our way back out to dance together.

carefree cheerful child daisies

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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