Ever feel like you need a joy lift? Like life is Rocky and you are the speed bag? And maybe wondering just when am I going to catch my breath—or better yet, catch a break?
I am aware that I let myself get mired in troubles when I should be keeping a better perspective. As someone who battles anxiety, it is a part of my mental DNA to continually brace myself for the next punch that I am certain will be coming my way. Prepare for the worst, right?
This is especially easy when it feels like your speed bag is getting hit by Rocky after the training montage. (You, know…when the music plays and he gets better, faster, stronger because he chases chickens and does one-handed pushups?) With that kind of quick-hitting, troubles just keep coming and there’s no way to throw the rhythm off.
Or at least that’s the way it feels.
Now, in the colosseum of troubles, I know that I face lions that some people pray for—because it would mean that their plight would be dramatically improved over the challenges they now face. I know that even in my troubles, I am greatly blessed, too. But the troubles still hurt.
The last few years have brought me and my family many trials and challenges—from caregiving evolutions that have been all too consuming to going from a two-income family to a zero-income family. And changes that should have brought some respite only brought a new slew of stressors.
Unfortunately, this can really screw with a person’s mental baseline. What I mean by that is that after a while, that “bracing for the next punch” mentality can weigh you down and create a filter that sees life much grayer than it truly is. Not only when you stand back and look at the big picture, but also in the tiny fragments of day that make up a life.
I learned the word “doomdart” in reading Edward M. Hallowell’s book Crazy Busy, and as he defines it, it is “an obligation you have forgotten about that suddenly pops into your consciousness like a poisoned dart…and spreads its toxins throughout your being so that within minutes you are anxious and distracted.”
Of course, I’m starting out anxious and distracted, so doomdarts just add fuel to the fire. And what really cracks me up about myself is that, since I already am so distracted and absent-minded, a doomdart will come to my mind, and then I will forget exactly what it was—yet still feel the anxiety of it. And then I have to mentally backtrack to remember what it was (after all—it is something that needs doing), and when I finally succeed, the anxiety is confirmed and I can move along.
Doomdarts are bigtime joy-killers.
It’s like they can sniff out a joyful moment and squarely take aim at it…leaving joy dead in its tracks.
This is why ducking doomdarts is so critical to embracing joy. Joy is too precious to leave unprotected. If joy was a young gazelle, would you want to leave it wandering around a cackle of doomdart hyenas? (Yes, “cackle” is the term for a group of hyenas. Now you may have actually learned something reading this blog!)
So…what to do? What is this “imperfect art” of which I speak?
Well, the “imperfect” part comes from me not really having a lock on it. Sorry, guys. But I can attest to the fact that mindfulness can be very helpful on this front.
Just the other day I had completed a job and was feeling pretty good about it. Let’s just take a stroll inside my mind at that time. (Be careful—there’s lots of clutter and dust…tread lightly.)
Enter Lisa’s stream of consciousness…
Hey, that actually went pretty well. I mean, the client really liked it…and that might turn into more work…and that would be totally awesome…and…oh…geez, I have got to fix this tub! (Yes, we are in the shower!) I so don’t want to find out that there are bigger problems to it than the ones I already see…like on HGTV when they find out there’s seepage and dry rot, and that costs a ton of money to repair…oh, crap—I still have to do Mom’s taxes…I hate doing taxes…taxes suck…cue the sound that Fred Flintstone’s car makes when he brakes hard…HEY! YOU! Knock it off! For the love of all that is holy, stop with the doomdarts! Get back to the good part! This job felt good. Stick with that. The other stuff isn’t going away. But…for now…just enjoy the good.
We are now exiting Lisa’s stream of consciousness. Please watch your step….
That’s what I mean by mindfulness. I was getting lost in the doomdarts—those damn things hover and try to block out all rays of sun. Left unchecked, you can sometimes even forget there IS a sun. But I was able to willfully push them back and create enough space for the joy to stick around. The doomdarts didn’t go away, but neither did the joy.
Since life will always have at least its fair share of doomdarts lurking about ready to pounce, the “art” is to nurture those joy saplings and make space for them so they don’t get smothered out. It, for sure, doesn’t always work. There are definitely days where the gray filter crushingly wins, but the war is ongoing. There is joy to be embraced.
As we weather the many storms of life, there will undoubtedly be times that we are metaphorically lost in a sea of doomdarts. But even then, the sunrise will come…and it will go—and the only difference will be whether you let your heart absorb the sun’s beauty in that moment.
…And I really don’t want to miss those sunrises.
ALL PHOTOS ARE MY OWN OR USED WITH PERMISSION.
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