me speaking at The Orchard last weekend– an opportunity I never would have had if I hadn’t started writing regularly

It seems like I’ve been talking to a lot of people who feel down lately.  Some of the down feelings are

circumstantial, but for most of the people, it’s more of a disillusionment with the way their everyday lives are going.

And because I’ve definitely been there, it is causing me to analyze some of my “joy” data– and I’m not talking about my name here….. what brings joy into my life on an everyday basis?  (and this is beyond all those easy answers like God and children….)

For me, it’s words.  I remember loving the feeling of stringing them together as a kid…. that pure delight even in kindergarten when I wrote, “The Rose Girl” and had some vague sense that I had created something.

And maybe my first love of words had something to do with the fact that pictures were sometimes hard to see, and how the words describing them made them visible to me.  My toddler has a lot of first words books where I point to the  picture and she tells me what it is, and honestly thank goodness for the large, bolded words below each picture because I have trouble deciphering what most of them are even though she recognizes most of them right away.

I think it’s human tendency to withdraw from some of the things we really enjoy doing in life when we’re down.  I know I withdraw from writing when I’m feeling depressed (hence the lack of entries over the winter!)

Yet as I write daily– whether I intend to ever share it with anyone or not– it makes me wish that I had forced myself to do it over the winter because I feel like the days build on each other and increases my daily joy exponentially.

it sometimes takes effort, contemplation and soul-searching to sit down and do the thing that feeds us– or even figure out what it is.  But when it is found– whether it be yoga, art, long walks– whatever– give it a prominent place in your life.  Challenge yourself in whatever it is, and ignore messages clouding your brain that tell you it’s a waste of time.

For years I didn’t really write much because I didn’t think it would ever lead to a “career” or financial gain.  And honestly it may never end up putting a dime in my pocket, but I’d pay a whole lot of money to feel as alive as I do when I create with words.  I am so grateful for my amazing twin sister who had the idea to start this blog.  It has been my free therapy, my place to be honest, my place to grow and the place where my soul figures out it is satisfied.

I know I’m hovering on the cheesy side again, but I’m writing this for the people in my life who are down right now.  Because they have soul food in their lives that they aren’t eating.

Usually these soul food type of activities don’t come skipping along at just the most opportune times.  They usually arrive in the middle of the inconvenient times.  Like right now when I’m supposed to be scoring essays, for example.  I score state tests for Pearson from home to help pay bills (and with how slow I am at scoring, I barely make minimum wage, but my philosophy is that something is better than nothing!)

Many of my writing ideas enter my mind while I am scoring exams, which is completely frustrating because I have a quota to meet, and when I stop to write, I really lose time and money.  But when I don’t grab those moments of inspiration, they tend to disappear.  So lately, when I feel the inspiration to write, I stop whatever I am doing and just roll with it because I know it’s something that will keep building….. the more I am in the habit of dropping everything to do it, the easier it will be and the more joy I’ll get out of it, and the fuller my soul will feel.

And anyone I know who actually continuously practices the things that feed their soul end up heading in a life direction that they feel alive in.

My husband, for example, is a singer/songwriter, and for years he struggled to find his “niche” of listeners.  I worked as his booking agent, we hired a publicist and were determined for him to someday make a living as a full-time singer/songwriter.  After several years of late-night shows that didn’t really pay, I got really frustrated.  Why wasn’t this career happening?  But my husband kept plugging away writing and  performing, and at times I couldn’t understand why.

Then in 2010 he was asked to do a Christmas show in Aurora, and we argued about whether he should do it because we would be sacrificing a lot of fun plans and even a weekend trip with family, for him to do this show that involved late-night rehearsals, performances spanning over two weekends and little pay.

At some point I remember my husband making the point that ended the argument: “Joy, with my busy job and our family commitments, this is my one opportunity each year to connect with other local musicians and to put music first”

And it was at that performance that he met his current boss, who hired him one month later to do his dream job.  He now writes and plays music full time, like we had always hoped he would be able to do, and simply from continuing to do the thing that makes him feel alive even when it wasn’t convenient and didn’t pay.

I’m not suggesting that we will all end up with careers doing these soul food activities, but if we open up spaces in our days to do them and place them above all those nagging things like money and organizing the closets, we just might start to breathe easy again.