I’m always trying to find ways to organize my life. Categories, lists, reminders. I love it all because it helps me be productive and move toward my goals, and I love checking things off my to-do list. I’ve experimented with various apps on my phone to help me achieve this, and I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. Trello, at least so far, is working for me.
After retiring my credit card, I was finally living within my means, i.e. not spending more than my income. It was a major victory, but there were still thousands of dollars in credit card debt looming in the background, adding on interest each month I paid only the minimum payment. My next step toward a debt-free life was to attempt to live below my means (to spend way less than my income) so that I could make much larger payments on the credit card. That meant a major budget cut.
I know, I know, budget cuts are buzz-kills. They mean less of the “fun stuff” that cost you money. They are also our mercy when we want to get a handle on our finances.
I’m not a naturally joy-filled person. I brood, and I ruminate, and I often see the glass as half-empty. I don’t necessarily consider this a defect (the world benefits from its pessimists and critics), but I do suspect that I might miss out on some really beautiful moments if I don’t make an effort to cultivate more joy in my life.
So, what does “cultivating joy” look like for me? Part of it is naming the things that I’m grateful for. Part of it is allowing the rare things that cause me to break out into spontaneous joy to happen more frequently. My husband discovered at random that I can’t help belting out the lyrics of Rockin’ Robin when I hear the tune, so sometimes when he knows I need cheering up he’ll hum it. It doesn’t take long til I’m giddily “hoppin’ and boppin’ and singing” along.
I cannot be dependent on Rockin’ Robin to bring me joy every day—it would probably lose its charm after a while. Maybe a regular infusion of various things that cause me great happiness would contribute to additional joy. My joy board seems to be dominated by cute little animals, my favorite little kids, and upbeat music. So perhaps I can get myself a pet, or find a way to spend time with the long-distance kiddos who call me Auntie, or listen to more major chord music than the same old contemporary singer-songwriter music with minor chords that I usually listen to on Pandora. I’m not getting rid of it altogether; just mixing it up a little.
While I do believe that true joy cannot be manufactured and that it rather comes from deep within, I also believe that outer behaviors can influence our thoughts and feelings, and in turn our deeper beliefs and states of mind.
Small changes have the potential to cultivate great joy.
May you and I find the joy that comes from without and from within, both on the holy days set aside for such joy, and all the ordinary days in between.
I am a super-introvert, and my husband definitely is not. Not that he’s an extrovert—that actually might have been easier to adapt to since he would have had a broader social circle to run around with and would have depended on me less for social stimulation. But he’s sorta in the middle of introversion and extroversion which means that he prefers to spend most of his time with one or two of his favorite people. And that almost always includes me.
So, spending time together gives him social energy, while mine becomes depleted (as is the case with all of my social interactions).
A former supervisor-turned-dear friend once described me as someone who accommodates others day after day until reaching an unspoken limit where I can’t take it anymore. He said that’s when I “dig my heels in” and refuse to budge, catching everybody off guard because they had no idea I was accommodating that whole time since I seemed to be participating so willingly. I learned much later that this was classic Phlegmatic behavior.
Some of my longest, most depressing, and most anxiety-filled months were those in which both myself and my husband were unemployed, with rent and bills piling up every month on my credit card. Having that kind of stress and fear hanging over our heads was debilitating. To the degree that occasionally, out of hopelessness, we stopped applying to as many jobs as we could and just succumbed to the inertia that grabbed at us. Not getting the results for which we’d hoped discouraged us from putting more effort into trying.
I found that I needed a perspective-shift.
If you are trying to cultivate more happiness in your life and are the type of person who is motivated by small external rewards, a calendar, a pack of stickers, and a few moments to review each day, may help.
I figured out a few years ago that I carry my stress in my jaw. It’s an ache that comes from constant jaw-clenching, and it’s my body’s way of telling me to lighten up or take a break. And it’s been talking to me a lot lately.
The problem is, I don’t have enough going wrong to warrant that kind of constant tension in my jaw. I make stress when there is none, or at least when there is very little.
Sometimes I am so exhausted that my over-taxed brain just cannot pull it together to work with my mouth to produce words that make any sense. And often when this happens I’m in a situation where I cannot escape into a quiet room all by myself, and sometimes there’s someone with me I care very much about who wants attention and affection.
So I’m learning how to communicate non-verbally. Being present with another person, showing them I care about them, without talking. Here’s how:
I was one of those brides who got the opportunity to have two weddings to the same guy (on separate continents, several months apart). For the second one, I had much more time to prepare, so I decided that I’d try to add a bit of excitement to my attire by making a birdcage veil.