Undentable Joy

While walking my dog and indulging in my newest addiction, podcasts, I heard a line that stopped me in my tracks…literally.  I had to pause in my walk and immediately jot down what was said.  My dog looked confused tugged at the leash, but to no avail, the wheels of an inspiration had hit.  People drove by silently judging (I used to be one of them!) the woman who was ignoring her dog to be on her phone.  I now no longer silently judge people walking and typing on their phones…might be creative inspiration at work.  They need to be encouraged with padded electrical poles and perhaps a moving sidewalk. 

This particular podcast which I was unable to locate on the website as it was an older episode was discussing Thanksgiving and gratitude (Ologies with Alie Ward), and in the discussion, the words came up “undentable joy.”  A visual image of someone being barraged with negativity with a layer of insulation while they existed in a state of calm and peace came immediately to mind.   Well, Pandora’s box had been opened, and ideas began to flow about what undentable joy looked like and how one could obtain it in their own life.

An aside:

Please know that when I discuss undentably joy I am discussing it in terms of day-to-day life, its ups and downs.  Extreme life events like grief and loss are circumstances where discussing undentable joy seems inappropriate. That being said, joy never travels alone, and while it takes a back seat in certain circumstances, it is replaced by its cohorts of resilience and hope.

Undentable joy is not running around in a state of perma-grin.  It is not exuding positivity inauthentically.  It is the ability to be live in a state of mindfulness and delight that is not dependent on life to be good, but that to live is good.

Undentable joy is a choice, but it’s a choice that needs strengthening.  Thinking about undentable joy as a practice, I began to recognize areas in my life this year where I have been building up my insulation.   Humor, limiting negative social media and news, a good dose of nature and surrounding myself with uplifting books and podcasts have been a few ways I keep myself in the joy zone.   The big two though by far have been a daily practice of gratitude and meditation which I started earlier this year.

Meditation

 You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. – Zen proverb.

Five minutes, five minutes is all it has taken to bring me from constant mind chatter to mental quiet and being present.  I’m not saying I achieve this all the time, and even this morning, I found myself meditating on my grocery list.  When I started this practice, the peace and calm did not come right away, but gradually.  I started to notice things more like the way the wind stirred the autumn leaves and how one leaf drifted down like an elegant Mary Poppins.  My emotions were a little more even keeled and less led by the anxious roommate in my brain.  I occupied the present more than the future.

Gratitude

Every day mentally or in my journal, I list three things I am grateful for.  My gratitude has extended from being thankful for big things like family and shelter to appreciating a simple cup of coffee and fuzzy pajama pants.  Gratitude has a way of weaving itself through the day and taking away reasons to complain.  The size of the gratitude does not seem to matter, what seems matter is where your focus goes. 

Meditation and gratitude have made it possible to stay more often in a state of undentable joy.  Without these practices, I would turn to guilt …I should be happier, why can’t I be more positive and relaxed, but the effectiveness of guilt is demonstrated in my daily exercise regimen (non-existent).

Well, there you have it, my sidewalk musings.  I am curious though, what are some of your undentable joy builders?

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

The Little Things

“Mom, I found a baby rat lying on the ground.”  Abruptly pausing mid conversation, I offered up a suggestion knowing as it left my mouth that it was a futile one as the little creature, they held in their hands, had its eyes still closed and was obviously less than 2 weeks old.  ”Did you see the hole it came from, maybe you should put it back” and when confirmed that this was indeed impossible due to being unable to find the hole and a large number of dogs playing in the immediate vicinity, my shoulders sagged.

Knowing how the rest of the afternoon was going to play out, I still allowed myself the luxury of having an internal whine session. “I have so much work…can’t I just let nature take it’s course!”  “Why is it always us who ends up finding these creatures.”  “It’s a rat!”  This whine session plays itself in my head within seconds and then…

“Tuck it in your work glove and keep it warm…let’s get it home.” 

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

The sad end to the story was that this little one died in my daughter’s hands, but not before buying $30 in baby formula and $10 for batteries for the food scale so we could weigh it, as well as tearing the house apart for a syringe small enough (we found one…who knew!…the argument against minimalism).

This little moment got me to thinking though (a recurring theme in this blog…the result of too much ruminating and coffee) is it not these little actions that say the most about me and what I value.  It’s one thing to blog about kindness and then snap at a cashier because the lineup is too long, and lectures to my kids on patience don’t carry much weight when I’m sighing heavily or tailgating a new driver. 

Thankfully though, I do believe I am the sum of hundreds of little moments which gives me a little leeway when I fail and fall short (often) of who I am learning to be…nothing like a bit of failure to add a bit more shine to the wins.

Please don’t think that I expect you to go out and rescue baby rats.  We each have our different journeys, and baby rat saving may not be yours.  Others near and dear to us would have made a different call regarding the rat baby and that would possibly have been kinder.

What I am saying is that right now in my house, I have baby formula, a syringe and a fully functioning food scale as evidence that one time I managed to override my selfish tendencies and act in alignment with my values, and I’m feeling good about that….though very sad for the baby rat.

Don’t Wanna

“Don’t wanna,” my tired brain screams as my son asks me to join him on his school cycling project of seeing how far he can bike each week. In a flash of a second, I go through the litany of excuses…too tired, too much work, not an interest of mine, my endurance on a bike is nil, when is my time? In a flash of another second, I recognize the honor of being asked by this teenage son of mine who towers over me, I see how fleeting time is and how I won’t get this moment back and I see a future in which I get too much of “my time.” I paste a smile on my face and answer “I’d love to.”

Being a comfortable in my rut introvert, having those friends/family who continually challenge me to get out of my comfort zone has been good for me. At the time of initiation of said challenge, it feels a bit like eating my broccoli as opposed to a chocolate chip cookie, but most of the time, it turns into the cookie.

When my dad passed away, I made a promise to myself that I would stop living in the mediocre. I would show up more fully and say yes a bit more often. It was at a time in my life where I could see myself making a lot of excuses of why I couldn’t do things or backing out of things I had committed to. My biggest reason was tiredness, and it was always a handy excuse…after all wasn’t I always tired. This wasn’t to say I abused myself…I am a card carrying member of the Seven to Eight Hours of Sleep a Night Club and am a jerk to live with if I don’t get it.

However, death has a way of both widening and narrowing your perspective to what is truly important in the long term, and I think when you lose someone you love, there is a desire to make some kind of meaning out of tragedy, a way of honoring the dead by living well.

So, here I am peddling away, butt sore, wind knotting my hair and loving every second of it. My son grins at me as he has to wait for me yet again as I am not as fast as him, but I don’t feel bad for slowing him down. I figure I’m the one who makes him notice things…how green the grass is, the lovely wind that cools us as we peddle, the cluster of geese…by slowing him down.

In the process, I make a mental note to myself to notice how good I feel, how the fresh hair has perked me up, how physical fatigue feels so accomplished and what a pleasure my son is to be with, and I file this feeling away for the next “I don’t wanna” moment.

Thanks for asking me.

Dance with Reliability

I’ve had a dance with reliability ongoing my whole life. This has not been a beautiful graceful dance, but rather a dominant partner whisking their victim around in endless circles. Sometimes, I have been in the lead and other times I’ve been taken for a ride, but nevertheless, we have been partners.

My own definition of reliability pertains to relationships, particularly friendships in my life. I’ve had big issues with friends who cancel appointments repeatedly and use words like “flow with life.” When they say “flow,” I hear “you’re not a priority.”

For a period, I thought something was wrong with me. Why was I so darn sensitive and needy? Why was I so bothered by “flowing.” In essence, flowing is a beautiful thing. It’s being mindful, isn’t it? Did I have so little in my life that I needed to be upset by these frequent perceived rejections?

Then for another period, I felt that something was wrong with them. Were they so wishy washy that they couldn’t commit? If you were going to be this type of friend, then I needed to cut you from my life. Only reliable friends need apply here. My armor went up.

Cut is such an ugly word. It’s a word that makes me feel powerful, but really keeps me small. Cancer needs to be cut out. Harmful relationships need be cut out. Relationships that challenge me to grow are a part of my spiritual journey.

At the age of 44, I am now tired of playing these mental games with myself, and I am definitely done with apologizing for my “defects” or perceiving others to be defected. Leaning in towards acceptance, I understand that I require reliability to have a trusting relationship. Those people are a part of my inner circle, and I am so grateful for them. My friends who flow I celebrate that they are following their authenticity and have set boundaries (limits that create healthy mental, emotional and physical energy) that honor us both. They are my “don’t life so seriously” reminders.

The dance with reliability is much more beautiful now, graceful and allowing, What a lovely things to be able to let all that negative energy go.

unsplash-logoJulia Caesar