So if you are a regular reader here, you know I’m all about the joy. Back in 2005 or so, I started on what I jokingly called the Arwen Remodeling Project. People who have known me through the years will tell you I was a much different person back then.
- More inclined to bitterness
- A bitch, really
I would happily engage in online battles. In fact, I was a proud member of both WitchWars and WitchWarsII where it was common to shred someone verbally. I gave as good as I got. I ganged up on people with others. I cut them down. I was praised for my cruelty, my sarcastic wit. I enjoyed it. Then something changed.
I can’t tell you what that was. I’m really not sure. I can’t pinpoint when I decided that the rage was not just making me a very unhappy, unpleasant woman. Worse. It was killing me. I realized I truly didn’t like myself. As in, I was not a woman I’d be friends with. I was Lucy Van Pelt. Ouch.
During that really dark time, I went through a lot. I not only broke up with a male partner but got stuck with a house that got repossessed. My mother died from cancer after a long battle. I went to a horrible place when I lost her. She was one of my best friends. I got into a relationship that fed my unhealthy behaviour. Again, I got complimented for being a really gross human being. I was doing poorly at a job I had excelled at (and been at for nearly five years.) I nosedived.
I went from dark, angry, bitter to far worse. I pulled away from my spiritual group and in fact self-sabotaged there as well. I was an amazingly talented self-saboteur. There are friends from that time that I have begun to rebuild friendships with but there are others who will never allow me that close again.
I don’t blame them. I was, as one friend put it, toxic. I poisoned nearly everything I was involved in.
Then, as they say, I hit rock-bottom. I remember it clearly. I was taking a two week break in Louisiana. My sister had given me free run of her guest house. I spent a lot of time there crying, journaling and reading Tarot. Tarot was like a life line for me at that point. I didn’t think my Gods had abandoned me. I knew I’d abandoned Them. I feared They wouldn’t want me back.
As hard as that two weeks was, I survived it. Even knowing I was going back to a crumbling marriage. Even knowing I was going back to quit my job. Even knowing I was going back to move out of my home and potentially losing my step-kids forever. I survived.
Why? I realized I had to change. Not for them. For me. I had to become someone I wanted to be with. Y’all, I had to like myself enough to fall in love with me again.
So I quit my job and got another one where I excelled. Still I wasn’t happy in Denver. I needed a change of scenery because the only person I saw in my mirror was that sad, tired, bitter woman struggling to become someone else. So I moved to Austin. I owe a debt of gratitude to a man named Conner that I will never ever be able to repay. He’s my hero because he gave me a way out.
When I got there, there was a person that I greatly admired and even loved. I wanted to be just like her. Then we had a falling out. I found out that her outside did not match her inside. I nearly fell apart again. I thought about moving–running away. My sister challenged me to stick it out. Others did too. Thank you to everyone who did.
Instead of running, I adopted a saying from my sister.
I can only control what is in my hula hoop.
I also realized that the person I had so wanted to emulate was like I used to be. Candy on the outside. Shitty on the inside. I set up boundaries to make sure I kept her as far away as possible. And, yes, it hurt.
Doesn’t it always hurt when you find out that someone you’ve so admired has been trashing you behind your back? Sadly, it wasn’t only me that this happened to. I practiced focusing joy on her then. My friends began to see why I’d distanced myself from her. They have done the same in the following years. It was hard damned work. Still is as even after all these years, I sometimes check in on her public self to see how she is. It’s like picking at an old scab.
During that time with her, I blurted out on Twitter, “Seek joy, y’all.” And it stuck. So she gave me something invaluable actually. That’s become my thing. My motto. I even have a pendant with that on it. The pendant features the 3 of Water from the Gaian Tarot. In this card, there are two otters on top who are kicked back. They are enjoying the sun, the water, the food. But the third otter is the one I identify with. He or she is diving into the water beneath the other two. Her whiskers are slicked back from the water sluicing along her nose as she seeks her joy.
That otter is me now.
I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was to transition from that other woman to this one. The hours of therapy, writing, crying, talking it out with friends are immeasurable. The value of all of that sustains me even now. So when I get comments like this from people I respect and admire…it means so much to me.
You are inspiring me in a bigger way than you can ever know. I have adapted your philosophy. Thank you.
I responded with
You can’t imagine how happy this makes me. Thank you. I am grateful to have your reflection in my joy mirror.
Each of you reading this are in my joy mirror. Now whether that is as a reminder or a lesson? That’s up to you. Seeking joy is not easy. It’s a struggle many days. I have to verbally remind myself. I have to smack myself upside my own head when I wake up cranky. Sometimes I wish I could just stop seeking joy for a bit. Some days I fail miserably at being happy.
But you know what? When I look in the mirror, I like who I see. I’m in love with the woman I see. That keeps me on the straight and joyful. Even when I fall off the joy wagon, I know it’s far better to make the hard climb back up. Laying in the bitter gutter is no longer an option.
Seek joy, Y’all. Always. Especially on the “woke up late, everyone is driving slow intentionally, hungry, need more coffee, the whole world is stupid” days. Especially on those days.
So if you think I’m being a rose-colored glasses-wearing Pollyanna who poops rainbows and farts unicorns?
You’re right. 🙂
And I invite you to join me on that journey. It’s been six years since I wrote the above post. I’ve moved out of Austin, TX. I still come back to this post routinely. It’s still as urgent to me to seek joy today as it was then. I do thank all those who taught me (positively or negatively) how to be a better joy seeker. I take other people on Joy Journeys and help them re-calibrate their joy. I consider it my joy to help others bring joy back into focus in their lives. Let’s get you started today.
(updated 1/7/2017 from the original 06/25/2011 edition)
7 thoughts on “Otters, Pollyanna & Lucy Van Pelt”
Arwen, when I see the 3 of Water I always hear yor voice “Seek joy, Y’all” and send more joy your way.
Thank you, Maggie! 🙂
Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. It’s hard to believe you were ever such a person. It is a struggle to stay on the positive side of life. There are many vampires in our mist. I always try to look at the silver lining of every event. My motto is everything happens for a reason. Every action, a reaction – Every pleasure and every pain create lessons in our life.
Thank you so much for sharing. This evening I spent time with a friend who has never felt joy. How do you find joy? She agrees it needs to come from within, but she doesn’t know where to start. What helped you?
Cher, you nailed it about the struggle. An English teacher of mine, Miss Jane Whittingon aka Miss Whitt, used to sing “Stay on the sunnyside” AT us. 🙂 I adored her. She seemed to be a positive person so I sometimes hum that song.
Karen, on Twitter I do random “JoyPatrolAlerts” to ask folks to do things like “Find joy in some small way then share it.”
I honestly think you have to look for joy. And find it in a good cup of coffee, a bird taking a bath, your child’s laughter, your dog’s tail. It isn’t a big thing really. Joy is a small steady pile. 🙂