THERE’S JOY IN THEM THERE HILLS
By: Lauren Anderson
I swear I haven’t taken a vacation in over 3 years.
But as luck would have it, I’ve found myself on two separate mini-vacations in the same month! Who am I? A jet-setter? A bon-vivant? A sultan of a distant land or something?! At any rate, I’m feeling very fortunate lately, and very rejuvenated.
Two weeks after my 36-hour whirlwind trip to Harry Potter World (see blog post “I DONT HAVE A UNIVERSAL BODY” for more details), I got back on a plane and met up with my old roommates from what seems like another lifetime.
They both moved to Texas… so we decided it was high time I come to them. And they took me to stay at an AirBnB for three days in Hill Country (aka WINE country) in Wimberley, TX, just outside of Austin.
It’s beautiful here. With quaint shops and even quaint-er vineyards littering the sloping hills. It’s like, the closest I’ve gotten to becoming Diane Lane in “Under the Tuscon Sun” in my adult life. I mean, I stopped just short of the linen pants– and the whole moving to Italy thing.
But I digress…
I haven’t seen Danni and Crystal face to face in way too long. But you know those friends who you can just jump right back into it with them? As if no time has passed at all? Well, I hope you all (er, I mean “YA’LL”) have someone in your life like that. Because friends like this are worth their weight in gold.
It didn’t take long before we were laughing harder and louder than we should, and going deep with each other. Sharing incredible highs and a few hard lows and I could feel us three weave back into each other like a braid on the wrists of BFFs at summer camp.
There was a moment at night where we were sitting around the kitchen counter eating the bag of gourmet novelty popcorn (hello bacon cheddar?) that we were told we “just had to get”, and having a great time doing absolutely nothing. When I felt something strange in my body.
I felt a knock on my chest that I haven’t felt in a while. Like my heart took an extra beat or something.
But before you direct me to the nearest hospital, I assure you it wasn’t Arrhythmia. It was JOY.
In my heart, I felt joy. Like true, real, deep joy. And I think it knocked me out for a moment. I felt calm, I felt peace, and I felt closeness. And then joy started to buzz all around me.
This kinda threw me for a sec, because I KNOW JOY. I feel lucky to say that I think I have a pretty strong relationship to Joy. I mean, my whole job is literally making people laugh.
But this felt different. There was a a special serenity in this joy. As if I was a bath that got a much-needed shot of hot water, and it blazed enough to warm up the entire tub.
(Yeah, that blissed-out metaphor is really working for me… mmmmm tub time.)
But it got me thinking, on the journey into my health, and making healthy decisions for mind, body and soul… how often do I think about Joy? How often do I make my choices with joy in my mind? How often do I look to make the “joyful choice” as opposed to the “right one” or even “the smart one”?
Because, this moment of joy in the kitchen of a house in the middle-of-nowhere Texas, almost had the same effect on my mood as a full workout at Solcana. I could feel my perspective shift. I was actually seeing the world around me in a more hopeful way.
And it dawned on me. JOY IS POWERFUL. And I think I forget that. Because I think we get trained into thinking that power can only come in the form of Rage or Fear or Passion or Love. If those emotions are the “big kids” playing dodgeball, it’s easy to imagine Joy sitting on the sidelines. The anemic step brother that isn’t strong enough to play rough.
I think that’s a mistake. Because when I do on occasion decide to hand the dodgeball to Joy, he is able to knock out all the others in a matter of moments.
DANG JOY. Who knew right?
But it makes sense. Have you ever come across someone who can change the mood of the room? They just walk into it, and you can feel their joy wash over you? (What’s with me and water imagery today?) That’s some power right there.
Or have you ever met someone who dared to mine the joy out of a terrible situation? And in their effort to do so, caused the whole event/party/meeting to shift into something not only tolerable, but actually fun?
That’s Joy flashing it’s power. And it’s impressive as hell.
Because so often, in the tyranny of this American “Be Happy” culture, where even the throw pillows they sell at Target tell us how to feel– I think it’s super easy to get Joy confused.
I think we get tricked into thinking that there is only one acceptable way to feel, and that’s HAPPY AT ALL COSTS. No other emotion is allowed. But happiness in my opinion is very different than joy.
Because when I felt true joy this week, it was after we three friends allowed all the emotions were feeling to come on through. We laughed, we reminisced, we cried even. And then there was relief. And in the aftermath of that release, joy crept in.
As I move forward on my journey to my greatest health, I think I’m going to practice bringing joy with me more often. Into work, the gym, and mining the joy out of whatever and wherever I can.
Sometimes it takes a wine-induced trip to the Hill country in Texas with a few old friends to remember that. But I wonder what I can do to not forget it when I get back home?
Because I think Joy is always there. It sneaks in the cracks like sunlight through the blinds. We can take it for granted, and try our hardest to shut it out. But I wonder what would change if we boldly threw open the shades instead?
Joy, just like the Texas sun is powerful and will not be denied.