Where is the joy? Or, What I would say to Ben.
Inspired by the anniversary of Ben leaving us, I felt compelled to write the below text. Your mental health is essential, and I hope that sharing this small piece will perhaps give you a moment's reflection.
Where is the joy? Or What I would say to Ben.
Ben was a unique human, but he was the same as many of us in other ways. He struggled to express, name, and discuss his feelings, fears, anxieties, and woes. It's not uncommon. I speak to many friends who sometimes struggle with somewhat abstract feelings that they can't name. I have struggled in the past, feeling lost, unsure, insecure—Imposter syndrome. I was fortunate to have adults and friends growing up who helped me realise that part of understanding these abstract emotions in finding language that allows you to name what you are feeling. It's like magic, and it's called a spell for a reason. You can understand it within the broader context of your thoughts and feelings if you can name it (spell it). Having the words to describe something allows you to make it tangible. It's not the only solution, there are many things in combination that make for a healthy mental approach, but as a starting point, it can help one to figure out what it is that's bugging. I find common words or phrases that pop into my head when I enter a negative headspace, and with practice, I have begun to identify these words (often attached to feelings), and when they pop up, I know to be mindful. It's at this point I take action. The first thing I do is acknowledge how I feel. I ask myself, am I fixating on something? Is it real or me asking and answering questions in an imaginary scenario? If it's fictional, then at least I know I'm in my head. If it's real, then I look at how I can address it, and it may be as simple as just acknowledging that it's external stress, and, once named, I have an idea of the source. Sometimes, I can do nothing about these external forces, so I focus on what I can affect, switching to things I can effectively do to help guide my thought process in a more controlled manner—it's separating the real from the imaginary. Talking helps us untangle the mental knots we can tie ourselves in—the mess tightening with each repeated cycle.
I had an excellent random conversation during the 2020 lockdown madness. It was November, and everything was getting too much. I was walking in the woods, taking some time, and happened to bump into my friend. I wasn't in a good place. I felt despondent, out of control, fearful, anxious, and unsure of the future. To his credit, he walked with me, and we talked about where my head was. He listened and took the time to hear where I was coming from and what I was worried about, helping me identify where my mind was going. Then he asked me a simple but profound question!
"Where is the joy in your life?"
It was simple enough but stopped me in my tracks. Where was the joy?
We discussed other things, but of the hour-long conversation, this was the thing that stuck with me. I spent the rest of the day thinking about where the joy was. Skating, my family, a warm home, all of which are pretty standard answers. But then I had an epiphany!
I was feeling sad, trying to find some happy place. This abstract thing called "happiness" always seems to float in the aether. It's what we are all looking for, right?. This feeling of contentment, comfortable in our skin, open to the world. A space of opportunities and infinite potential.? Okay, perhaps I'm going off on one, but you get my drift.
So, my realisation is this. If we focus on joy, in all its forms, each time we recognise and name something that makes us joyful, we check in and have a moment of clarity. It's like a second to acknowledge that small moment. Try this, look around you right now, look out of the window, find a tree, stare at the clouds, feel the sun on your face, hear to that bird singling, really listen to the music, taste that cup of tea!
At that moment, identify and name what it is that you could choose to be joyful for. How does it feel? Probably nothing too epic, right? But approach your day, your tasks (fun and chore) with this mindset and see how it makes you feel. I realised that Joy is a tangible way to name and recognise small things throughout your day. It may not be the case, but my rationale is that all these small identifications of joyful moments lead to something bigger. It's like the micro leading to the macro. It's that five trick line you have been trying forever that together creates that epic feeling. I propose that happiness is comprised of these many smaller moments of joy. We can choose to recognise Joy; it's something tangible and within our immediate grasp. Happiness seems to be a more abstract concept that often eludes; joy is where we choose to see it and is within close reach.
Right now, I'm enjoying sharing this idea and putting it down into words so that (hopefully) it can help others to find a small space of emotional calm amongst what can seem like an endless onslaught of confusion. Perhaps through noticing joy, you might see or experience something that has passed you by previously. Once you begin, it's surprising the things that pop up. Try it and see how it makes you feel.
It's a simple idea, but one that I have found helpful. I set up The Skate
Society in 2020 based on this idea. Firstly, I love skating, and secondly, I want to bring the joy of our shared passion to more people. It's a way to give them the keys to the kingdom and let them into this activity that provides us with all of these moments of fun.
It's this question I would have asked Ben. "Where is the joy?" Perhaps he would have responded; I'll never know, so I'll use this opportunity to ask you.
"Where is the joy?"
It's yours to see, like a little personal checklist of moments, and as I write this, the sun has just started warming the back of my neck. Noted. I'll add that to today's collection.
I think I'll have a cup of tea.
IF YOU NEED HELP REACH OUT.