by Lauren Morton. photography by Deun Ivory.
You can’t schedule joy. You can schedule your nails, your hair and if you have the resources, even your period, but you can’t schedule joy. You can manage tons of things, but you can’t micromanage joy. I found it difficult to stop trying to squeeze happiness in. I was attempting to cram joy into the margins of my life, reserved for things like vacations, weekends, birthdays and weddings. More than once I asked myself if I only had twenty-four hours left how would I feel knowing I’d skipped out on so much joy because I was saving it all up?
It’s difficult to shake the association between happiness and people, places, things and events. Adolescence is filled with milestones that typically hold joy and we become spoiled by the newness. Drivers licenses, first loves, eighteenth birthdays and graduations kept us anxious for the next big moment. We’re always looking forward to tomorrow. Milestones become fewer and farther between in adulthood. Instead of monumental change to mark a transition, adulting is made up of a bunch of small choices that make up the total picture. The monotony of everyday living where weeks and emails blur lack the fresh and unfiltered happiness that existed when you were young. I woke up realizing I was twenty-six, had gotten almost everything I wanted but was disappointed that every day didn’t contain joy. I assumed I was doing life wrong.
What I’ve come to realize is that on some days happiness comes, and on other days, it goes and on both days you’ll be fine. Joy doesn’t need to be clear skin in good weather on a paid Friday. It can pop up on a Tuesday at 6:00 pm when your partner cooks without asking. Or a phone call that you didn’t expect. Sometimes joy is as simple as the way the light comes through the curtains. It is a fine balance between not hunting for it and not being so busy you miss it.
When I began practicing mindfulness it felt like a close cousin to meditation which I had already decided I was no good at. Emptying my head and trying to procure my own peace wasn’t easy as my mind is typically flooded with random assignments, emails and saved articles to read later. Mindfulness doesn’t ask you to push it to the side it asks you to focus on it solely. Stop doing things from muscle memory. Have you ever driven home and wondered how the hell you got there? Or finished a whole sleeve of cookies and found yourself disappointed that you ate the last one without bracing yourself? Sure, some things are easier on autopilot but you only get one life, why would you want to spend any of it checked out?
Time is a blur after the holidays and before I knew it the seasons had changed. I made promises that I didn’t keep and realized that I had once again checked out. On the first warm day of spring, I began intermittent fasting. Since I began working in an office, I have tried a variety of things to jumpstart my fitness journey. Cabbage soup diets, no carbs, low carbs and obnoxious amounts of grapefruit juice. The one thing I didn’t try was consistency and patience. I began intermittent fasting with the idea that it wasn’t asking that much, just start and stop eating at certain times, this was doable even for me. The first week was brutal as I ignored my early morning stomach rumbles and late-night cravings for just a little piece. After three weeks I challenged myself to eat lunch without my phone. I enjoyed sitting outside to eat, I enjoyed people watching and I enjoyed my food. For at least twenty minutes a day I was zoned in, I was mindful. That doesn’t sound like much but ask yourself when’s the last time you were tapped in, not multitasking but truly giving something your full attention.
I’ve been guilty of looking at the big picture and being so overwhelmed that I choose to do nothing at all. I’ve learned that biting little bits at a time produces the same results as trying to eat it all at once. This idea of focusing while eating bled into everything. I realized that I never focused on anything. When I was watching t.v. I was on my phone. When I was cooking dinner I was starting up the laundry. I was trying to operate like a computer with a bunch of tabs open and it showed. I was leaving a trail of half assed, half done projects that I didn’t even enjoy doing. Fasting isn’t for everyone but focus is. How many moments do we miss today if we’ve got our heads down preparing for tomorrow?
Taking care of you leads to taking care of your life and sparks a different kind of joy. It is not equal to epic nights out or an all-expense paid vacation, but it is joy nonetheless and we should treat it as so. I measure joy like earthquakes, big or small we call it by the same name.