When faced with a period of struggle or difficulty, we have a tendency to postpone joy. We all do this from time to time.
Sometimes this is conscious and we often feel guilty when we're enjoying ourselves while others are suffering, or we shame ourselves because we feel like we don’t deserve to experience joy right now. Many people feel this way during the current pandemic; while joy might be available, people find it hard to lean into it. Our minds our in a fog of uncertainty and we're lost in our thoughts about our health, our healthcare workers and those who are facing unemployment as well as the safety of our family, friends and loved ones. Many are ruminating about a looming recession and economic hardship.
A headhunting firm in Fayetteville, AR employed a woman that I used to do business with a lot. She recently told me that she had just gone through a divorce and then, on top of that, last Friday, she lost her job. She said that felt like she needed to get back on her feet before she could really enjoy herself.
I simply said to her, "Life happens. Don't postpone joy."
Postponing joy also can happen to us unconsciously. For example, I know a guy that has left his home half-decorated because he's waiting for the right partner to help him make the final decorating decisions with him together.
Another friend of mine has delayed trips that she wants to take because she says that she "feels silly taking them alone."
The problem that we have here is twofold. First, when we postpone joy, we miss out on life events, memories and opportunities, because joy is deeply connected to resilience. And second, postponing joy only increases our sense of being stuck because it makes us feel like we’re waiting for something ... like a pandemic to end.
Please stop waiting and stop postponing your joy. When we allow ourselves to find joy in our present circumstances, however difficult, we become more open to new possibilities that help us get unstuck and move toward a better future.
In times like these, we may feel stuck, unable to make progress on things that matter to us. The distance between our present and our hopeful future feels magnified. The whole world is living on pause, feeling confined. Our regular rhythms suspended, our plans postponed.
But while the circumstances that are making us feel stuck may be out of our control, there are small things we can do to breathe energy into our routines and infuse a sense of dynamism and movement in our lives. I learn and re-learn this every spring, when the fierce vitality of buds and bulbs transforms our stunning landscape of Eureka Springs into one teeming with life, motion and beauty.
Spring restores our consciousness of time and, even more so, of possibility. The thawing of the hard earth, the flowing of sap, the bursting open of millions of buds: as the slow land quickens, we feel the energy of new beginnings around us, and our attention turns to the future. We are invigorated at the prospects of new joyful moments speeding toward us each day.
With this in mind, here are a few ways, this Spring, to breathe energy and joy into your life right now...
Get out there and participate in the regeneration that is Spring. Plant seeds, cut flowers, and make time to be outdoors. Spring reminds us that we don’t just have to wait for things to begin again. Through small actions, we can create our own renewal.
Bring the outside in. Nature is always in motion. It is always active. Even places of stillness thrum with motion: the swishing of insects, the wind in the trees, the silent unfolding of the clouds, the flowing currents of water. These small movements serve as reminders that nothing is truly ever static — that even if we don’t notice it, things are happening.
A simple way to create a sense of motion is to bring the outside in. Add elements of greenery to your space, or a few houseplants. Bring home some cut flowers, ideally still in bud form so you can watch them bloom. Or use nature sounds to create a soundtrack that subtly animates your surroundings. (As a bonus, both plants and natural sounds have been shown in research to ease stress and improve mood.)
Visit our very own, Bear Creek Nursery right here in Eureka Springs on Highway 23.
The wonderful professionals at Bear Creek Nursery will tell you that when choosing your houseplants, be on the lookout for fast-growers, like Pilea or Pothos, which will change more over time than their slower growing counterparts. And plants like the prayer plant (maranta) or oxalis actually move their leaves over the course of the day, opening and closing, which can also help bring a feeling of motion into your home.
Grow something. Nurturing life can offer a more intimate way to connect to growth. This might mean planting a few bulbs in your yard, or starting a garden. Even if you don’t have outdoor space, you could create a container garden on a balcony like my wonderful local friend Curtis did (pictured), or line a windowsill with fresh herbs. Or you might try propagating your existing houseplants. A leaf from a succulent or a frond from a fern can become a whole new plant with relatively little effort.
Seeing something you planted, take root, bloom and grow brings forward a tiny rush of joy.
During this uncertain time, gardening has profoundly changed my relationship to time. It's helping me to make the uncertain, certain. In my mind, no matter what lies ahead, our rose bushes WILL bloom. Our butterflies WILL find the daisies. Our deer WILL resist the vinca. Our flower boxes WILL flourish. It's the unending motion of nature that will be what it will be.
I’m heartened to see how many people are taking up gardening during this time of isolation.
Dig. Water. Check. Pinch and Stake. In the summer you'll be rewarded with even more joy that will bring hummingbirds and butterflies to your blooms, and bouquets to your table as you bring the outside in and welcome Mother Nature into your home.
A crisis like this illuminates the fact that joy is not fixed. Though we often strive to reach a steady state where joy is ever-present and consistent, we’re wired to feel it rise and fall.
We never know when it comes back, nor what it will look like. But we can create joyful moments for ourselves that reveal to us that even when we feel stuck, we’re actually still in motion. By cultivating the land, we deepen our connection to the cycles of nature, and bolster our awareness that the world is never stuck, even when it seems still.