Read Jen’s powerful backstory here.
“SPARKING JOY. Not the Marie Kondo kind—I’ve never seen her show—but the sentiment is probably similar. I have been reminded in the past few years the key to life is finding what brings you joy, what makes you laugh, what makes you happy, what lights your fire, what tickles your pickle, what sparks joy. It could be as simple as walking in nature, spending time with your kids, yoga, alone time, self-care. What brings you joy is also what brings you closer to yourself. The deeper knowing you, your inner self, the you that you often easily forget about. During the challenging and difficult times is when it’s most important to find those things that spark joy.
I found that very thing to be very true a few years ago during our journey to become parents. It wasn’t the journey I had anticipated, and it brought lots of anxiety, heartbreak, fear, and sadness. I wasn’t very good at finding things that sparked joy in the beginning. In fact, I often found anything but joy. I threw myself into (over) working, scouring the internet for infertility stories, scrolling Instagram mindlessly. I seemed to find every woman on the planet who was announcing her pregnancy and kept feeling more and more jealousy and sadness each time.
I knew I needed help to bring myself out of the fog and eventually threw myself into a constant state of self-improvement—another coping mechanism driven by productivity—endlessly WORKING and DOING. I found breathwork meditation, which became a new tool I could rely on, one which brought deep peace and relaxation. The only meditation I knew, up until this day, was the arduous process of attempting to erase the thoughts that never stopped coming. It was not peaceful, it was not easy, and it never left me feeling calm. Breathwork, however, felt like something I could do without struggle, resulting in the deepest meditation I had ever experienced.
And each breathwork class was different. The energy in the room was high, the music was loud, and the teacher was speaking throughout so we could hear her encouraging words over the music… this was something I could get used to. I felt I was able to take control and do something. But what I actually learned was to let go and let the breathing do the work. I was able to release some of the sadness and emotions I was storing in my body. I left each class feeling renewed and at peace. I was able to find the simple moments of joy that eventually piled up over time and brought a sense of happiness—something that had been missing for a long time.
After over a year of trying to get pregnant and various fertility drugs, my husband and I decided to start the adoption process. Each day, we faced the unknowns adoption brings with it and most days, I relied on my breathwork and meditation practice, and I kept on finding things that sparked that d*mn joy. I hiked and spent time in nature, I read books and watched movies, I delighted in the daily activity of walking to our local coffee shop for an oat milk latte, I took the scenic route to work so I could drive through the rolling hills of Los Angeles, I listened to Super Soul Sunday podcast episodes, I did yoga outside, I baked bread. I gave up control. I gave up resisting and started looking for the positive, for the moments of gratitude.
After much waiting and anticipation, we watched our son be born as I held his first mom’s hand. My heart broke as we left the hospital and watched her walk away, but we knew we would tell him all about her, and he would always know what a brave woman she is. The practice of meditation and actively giving up control has not only saved my sanity but has helped me create a life of authenticity that matches the joy and peace I now feel more of on the inside.
You might be asking yourself, what does bring me joy? The past year has definitely tested our mental health and happiness on many levels. For many people, the sadness outweighs the happy times, and it’s hard to imagine conjuring up a feeling of joy these days.
I like to think this is where our intuition comes in. To remind us of what we love doing. The ‘random’ thoughts in your head are not so random. In fact, most times, if the feelings are good, it’s your intuition. Pay attention to the things that pop up in your head—about how much you used to love yoga class, or the happiness you felt while making dinner, or the dance party you had in your pajamas with friends. Follow these subtle reminders back to the happy moments you have had before. Slowly but surely, you will find the little things that can bring a little happiness into your life. We have seen this happen a lot during the last year, in a pandemic that brought us to our knees in many ways.
When the control was taken away, we returned to the simple joys—making sourdough bread from scratch, watching our favorite artists stream live concerts from their living rooms, gatherings with family and friends on Zoom. It felt good to keep it simple, to remember what sparked joy. For many of us, it was a return to nature. At the start of the pandemic, the old, familiar feeling of fear and anxiety came creeping in and left me with debilitating panic attacks. My husband and I both lost our jobs in entertainment/events, and we had no idea where our next paycheck would come from. Our son was 7 months old, and while it felt so good to be home with him to watch him grow, we were worried about how we would make ends meet.
I was reminded to stay in the moment and felt a hit of intuition that said, ‘Find nature.’ Nothing keeps you in the moment like nature can. We didn’t have much of it in our Los Angeles apartment, so we gave up our lease, packed up our belongings, and headed up north to stay with family. Even just the freedom of a private and safe backyard provided so much positivity to our lives. I was able to find a few jobs that allowed me to work from home. We continued to follow our search for joy and nature and eventually landed in beautiful Mendocino County, California, in an Airbnb home we rented for the last few months of 2020.
We were surrounded by redwoods, birds, deer, and the ocean air. With all my time at home, I became trained as a breathwork meditation guide, so I could help bring this practice to people who may also benefit from it like I have. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We are promised nothing. But as this new year begins, we are excited about the possibilities. One thing is for sure—we will keep finding things that SPARK JOY.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jen. You can follow her journey on Instagram here or here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about adoption:
‘I don’t want you to go home. You can stay with us.’ Arlo was just an hour old. ‘That would be wonderful,’ I accepted.’: 2 moms come together for the love of their son in open adoption, ‘It wasn’t weird, it wasn’t awkward, it’s everlasting love’
‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him
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