Word of the Year: Joy

2016 started off differently than most of my other 30 years on this planet. Instead of living in anxious hope of what was to come, for the first time it felt like there was a whole year of space to grow and create versus simply reacting and learning from the universal forces that would be.

In recent years, there’s been a trend in the creative entrepreneur world to select your “word of the year.” It didn’t really make sense to me at first; but after realizing the influence of summing up your greatest desires and goals into one powerful word, I began to dig deeper. 2015 I gave it a whirl – I chose “Simplify.” I knew my candle had been burning at both ends for way too long. “Simplify” guided all my major actions and decisions. I said “no” to a lot of opportunities and people I knew would only make Life more scattered and chaotic. I readjusted my expectations – I didn’t need to prepare a decadently crafted dinner or meticulously folded laundry or spend hours editing photos to make sure the leaves of trees were the perfect shade of green (true story). I made space for the things that kept me balanced, like yoga and doggy walks and the occasional Netflix binge (“Friends” for the 4th time around). I did all these things without guilt and without fear of social judgement; it was tough in the moment, but I knew my heart and those closest in my life needed me to trim the unnecessary part of my life that kept me from being truly present.

Little did I know this overwhelming need to simplify would give me the opportunity to focus and be honest with my heart and my gut… and that it would create a space to let go. A space to look into and bravely ask for what I knew I wanted. A space that would hold the door to the next part of our journey, and I would’ve missed it entirely had I not cleared the emotional, mental, and literal clutter.

So when 2016 rolled around and we woke up in our little island condo with a clean slate of 365 days to write our next chapter, I came back to the thought of my Word of the Year. As John and I sopped up our New Years champagne hangovers with buttery, greasy diner goodness (and a gallon of coffee), the word leapt at me like a spider monkey.

Joy.

JOY!

A funny, three letter word that can really, honestly and truly, be felt in a special way. It’s different from “happy,” which to me can be more superficial or fleeting or giddy. “Joy” connotates more of an expression of fullness and gratitude, a stronger connection to the “true self.” It’s simple and honest.

For far too long I had bastardized every enjoyable facet of life into measurable goal or achievement or ulterior motive. Running had become a fixation of PR’s and time trials and distance goals. Photography was all about bringing in business and producing the highest quality, best lit, sharpest, most Instagram-worthy work. Yoga was about mastering the fullest expression of the poses. Meeting new people was a strategy for networking and creating contacts. I had forgotten how to actually enjoy anything. How to appreciate. How to let my heart smile in the small moments without having to read into everything. My world was dictated by lists and To Do’s, fear and anxiety, perfection and progress. I needed a desperate shift with my perspective.

Immediately putting “Joy” into practice, I began to see results slowly unfold and experiences began to feel more tangible and full. When I ran my first half-marathon of the year in February (my 6th one overall), I didn’t set a PR – but I felt strong and excited at the finish, not ready to puke my guts out and analyze every mile’s split time to see what I did “wrong.” When I’m taking a walk on the beach, I don’t force myself to listen to podcasts or the news each time to justify “being productive” – the waves and the heat of the sun recharge my mind and spirits, and I can be productive more where it counts. I’ve picked up my camera and gone on adventures with the hubs and the pup to capture photos and explore without project notes and deadlines and invoicing. I’ve traveled a lot for weddings and give myself extra time to take back roads to feel that freedom of the open road versus gridlock on the dull interstates. I let go of trying to teach a perfectly choreographed class at Pure Barre and choose to give good energy and encouragement so our clients feel strong and accomplished. I go to yoga and focus on my breathing and the delicious feel of my muscles expanding and releasing tension, leaving lighter and less anxious.

Maybe I don’t break a PR. Maybe my headstand still looks lopsided. Maybe I spend another 20min the car taking the “scenic route.” Maybe I plan my days with a little more “wiggle room” for a spontaneous trip to the ocean to catch the sunset and don’t fold the pile of laundry (for the 3rd day in a row). Maybe I don’t get a bagillion “Likes” on an Instagram post that’s not a perfectly styled or overly edited. Maybe I wait for the inspiration of writing to strike to create a post even when every social media demi-god will tell me to produce content-content-CONTENT no matter what.

But you know what?

I’m okay.

Rebuilding my business in a new market has been really challenging.

Trying to manage some health issues has been frustrating and defeating.

Creating relationships with new friends in our new home and maintaining previous ones has been tough and makes me feel like I can never do enough for others who have done so much for us.

Traveling nearly every weekend for weddings, events, photo commitments, family gatherings, etc., has been a lot of fun but also incredibly exhausting.

And it’s these little joy-filled moments that I collect and reflect upon that keep me thriving. And I owe it to my 2015 self to build on the work she did to simplify and prepare me for what’s ahead… and to finally experience the present for what it is.

Even if the present is taking your senior Chihuahua to the beach in his shark costume.

So tell me, friends – what’s your word for 2016?

Hugs & High Fives,

C


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