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When You Can’t Choose Joy – SheProclaims.com

Choose joy. 

You’ve seen it plastered around the world and on your screens. I know I have. It’s a novel idea. An idea which aims to empower us and make us happy. Everyone wants to be in control of their life and feelings. They want to be happy and love their life. We would all love to choose joy, but it isn’t as easy as the quotes want us to believe. 

I Can’t Choose Just One Feeling

Life is full of complex emotions. They very rarely come to us in an orderly single-file fashion. Instead, situations we face are filled with conflicting and smooshed-up emotions. We feel happy, sad, and mad but we also feel emotions like nervcited (nervously exicted) and angity (angry pity). We experience glarrow (glad sorrow), desohope (hope in a desolate place), charenity (serenity in chaos), and thousands of other nameless compound feelings I haven’t made up names for yet. 

Shoving them all aside so we can simply choose joy robs us of the tapestry of the human experience. Also, it’s impossible for many people, myself included.

Is joy all that great if we don’t have moments of despair as contrast in our life? I am not sure we actually enjoy joy if we don’t know what the opposite feels like. Does joy alone help us to process great loss in a healthy manner? Can joy single handedly cure depression and mend broken hearts? If choosing joy, and only joy, were really possible I suppose it could do all those things in a very monotone manner. 

Of course, if you’re someone who struggles with finding happiness, failing to choose joy as easily as everyone else feels like just one more failure in your life. The exact opposite of what the sentiment means. I’m like that. I can try so hard to choose to be filled with joy and gratefulness and all the good feels in spite of difficult circumstances but it doesn’t actually change things. Then I am sure I am doing it wrong. Which leads me further into my shame and depression. Which then leads to me eating way too much ice cream and needing new pants. The absolute opposite of joy.

Stop Choosing, Start Looking

Instead of “choosing” joy, let’s start looking for joy. Just a tiny little bit each day.  

Looking implies we may not find it easily or right away. I’m still looking for a set of car keys I lost when we moved back in 2014. I haven’t found them yet, but I might. I look for hair ties at least four times per day. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is since I own 4.7 billion of them but I always have to hunt for them. I always find one eventually. Looking is so much better than choosing. It’s less pressure. 

In theory, you should see one joy per day. I really think that is generally an achievable thing. We had a terrible night last weekend filled with nightmares for our daughter and little sleep for me. At the end of the night, we saw a sunrise so bright and colorful it filled the whole sky out our window. It was full or purple, our favorite color. I could not choose joy in that moment as a tired, overworked, worried mom but I found a moment to smile about. 

Some days I find a huge joy or multiple joys. A cozy fire and happy family on Christmas. Everything at Disney World which makes my heart want to explode with joy. My favorite meal surrounded by my favorite people. Spending a whole day reading a book. Warm baths, good beer, long naps, salon day, game nights, owls, my people, my kids and zillions of little things. 

Some days, I find very few. Some days joy is celebrating the end of a very difficult day. Making it through something you thought would destroy you can be a strange joy but it still counts. 

Choosing Joy is Hard

I cannot choose joy and it is ok. I am ok. You are ok. We are doing our best to get through the strange journey of life. We may be on top of the world one day then lost in our lowest lows the next but we are doing our best. You are doing your best. Choosing joy is not a fair expectation for everyday living. 

Just remember to look for joy each day. 

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Domestic Violence during CoronaVirus: a letter to the victims – SheProclaims.com

To the Women and Children being abused, 

I hope today is a good day for you. As good as the days can get right now. Your fear and worry are working overtime right now, understandably so. I hope fear and worry are all you have to endure today. 

I’ve been where you are, sort of. In the care of someone you are dreadfully afraid of. Trying to live in a home where you do not feel safe. You read every situation deeply, like a detective looking for a clue, gauging the situation while trying to make the world around him as pleasing as possible. Not pleasing for you, of course. It will probably be more difficult for you, but at least he will not be mad. Then you can drift through the day on pins and needles hoping the peace will last a little bit longer this time. 

I got so good at predicting and preventing problems. I went out of my way to make sure things were clean, nearly sterile, to avoid complaints. I set aside any of my own preferences and learned how to smile, shrug, and cheerfully go with the flow. It didn’t really matter, I felt so empty and dead inside. It always felt like I was watching a movie about my life, not actually living it. I know you know that feeling all too well. 

The irony of “stay safe, stay home” is not lost on you. It is not lost on me either. You’ve been on my mind since all of this began. Home is the least safe place for you, especially now, and you are stuck there for the time being. My heart has been hurting for you. The normal safe places of school, work, friends houses, the park, and church are closed right now. You are now stuck in a home with the one person you should not be near. The person who causes you heartache, pain, fear, and damage you aren’t even aware of yet. Damage you won’t find inside you for decades, if ever. There is nothing safe about staying at home for you. 

Is it your fault? Not in the least. Nothing you do ever deserves the reactions you are receiving. Nothing. Deep down, someone else’s fierce anger and self-hatred is overtaking them. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They see your goodness and hate themselves for lacking that quality. It is a them problem which unfortunately becomes a you problem out of misdirection. They cannot see how to fix themselves, so instead they take it out on you. A good person, in a bad situation. 

People will say you should leave. You’d like to, wouldn’t you? That’s the dream. Getting away from that person, never going back, and moving on to a better life. It’s so much harder than just saying “leave”. It costs money to leave. You need time to plan. You need a minute alone to make a phone call to ask for a ride. You need a place to go. I know there are million resources out there, I’m so grateful for them all, but I also know how hard it is for you to get access. 

If you’re on the bank account, you are monitored too closely to stash anything away. You have no time to plan because you are living in uncertainty between rages. You can’t Google for help or make a phone call, it’s all monitored. Even if it wasn’t, if you are out of sight for too long red flags will fly, the anger will spill forth, and your day will end up much worse than if you hadn’t even tried. Besides, there’s also a chance few people will believe your story. They will think you are overreacting or struggle to correlate the person they know with the one you are telling them about. Right now, you don’t have the energy to convince people. You barely have the energy to get through the day. 

So that’s what you are doing now. Using your energy to get through the day. You’re doing your best to fly under the radar, keep the peace, and stay as safe as possible at home. I cannot imagine. While people are protesting their access to garden centers and hair salons, you are trapped in a prison of fear. Riding out a pandemic with someone much scarier than the virus. 

Please know I see you. Others see you. You matter and you do not deserve the situation you are in. Your options are really limited right now, I know. My heart is completely breaking for you with every passing day of isolation you get through. I am praying for you. I am here to listen if it is safe for you. When you can leave, I will be your number one supporter. The day will come even though it seems so far away right now. 

Your goodness will shine through. Hold tight to it in the dark moments. Remember who you are and fight to get back to that person as soon as this is over. The world knows you are hurting, we know you need us, we know you will need us. We will be ready and waiting for you as soon as you can get out. 

Until then, we love you. We’re sorry. We’re praying for you. 

A survivor. 

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Domestic violence is a serious issue in our world under normal circumstances. Along with all of the “new normals” we now face, a major increase in abuse is happening and growing throughout the world. A 20% increase is expected over the coming months worldwide – including in your community. 

If you need help and can access it safely please reach out to a friend, community group, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can quietly and discreetly CHAT with them at https://www.thehotline.org/help/

Research in your community where you can donate time, money, supplies, or resources to help victims of abuse now or when they can finally leave. Purchases from the She Proclaims Shop also help support these charities – you can learn more at www.sheproclaims.com/shop

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This Was Not the Plan – Corona Blues -SheProclaims.com

This was not the plan for these daffodils this Spring. They were placed in the ground last fall, with care, in a landscaped area near the porch. The plan for these flowers was to come up from the gloomy ground once the snow melted away to bring happiness to the corner of our yard while we waited for the rest of Spring to arrive. 

Now imagine their surprise, and mine, when they sprouted in the middle of the backyard this week. These flowers are nowhere near where they were planted. Their Spring plans are very much off track thanks to a mischievous squirrel. 

My first reaction was to pull them out of the ground when the first buds started peeking over the grass. I was annoyed to find my planning and work messed up for no reason. Then, life started changing quickly as we moved to working from home, home schooling, online church, and changing all the Spring plans we had for ourselves. This was not the plan we had in place for our Spring. Taking care of renegade daffodils slipped from my mind. 

Until today when I sat down for a moment of quiet in this strange homebound chaos and spotted the daffodils. In the wrong spot, nowhere near where they were supposed to be, there they were. Standing tall among the grass and leaves with their bright yellow petals spread for the world. 

Among the chaos and broken plans they still bring joy. 

Last week was been hard at our house. Everyone was acutely aware we should have been preparing for a Spring Break trip to Florida instead of preparing for which puzzle we would be doing next. School buildings were closed for the rest of the year, worrying us all with how we’ll adapt to a new virtual classroom life. Many tears were shed. A lot of them from me (I am FREAKING OUT!).

Close quarters now feel smaller, patience is wearing thin, and arguments are popping up with more frequency than before. It seems like one of us is angry every waking moment of the day. I can’t help but wonder, what are we doing wrong? Why are we suddenly falling apart and suffering?

I finally found the real reason for the range of our moods. We aren’t turning on each other or actually falling apart. It is much simpler than that.

We are grieving. You are too.

We are grieving the loss of our structure and routine. Coming to terms with losing our school plans and vacation fun. We are all shedding the hope and excitement of the Spring Break we booked last fall. All of our plans are gone and nothing looks how it “should”. Nothing is how it is supposed to be. None of this is right. This was not the plan.

We are not the only ones. I’m sure you feel it too. The daffodils get it.

They remind us that plans change. Sometimes we end up where we don’t belong. We may end up where we do not want to be with no way to change the situation. No matter how long or well we plan, sometimes things are out of our control. All we can do is keep moving forward, growing where we are, and bringing whatever joy we can to the world.

We can still be beautiful and grow new places. Even if everything isn’t how we planned.

Just like the daffodils.

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Sorry My Depression Makes You Uncomfortable – SheProclaims.com

“It’s just difficult for us when we don’t what your mood will be today. Your depression makes us uncomfortable.”

I am sorry my depression makes you uncomfortable. Want to know why people suffer in silence? Don’t get help? Get lost in the darkness, leaving everyone shaking their heads saying “I had no idea…”? It’s because too often, others make your depression about them. They shame people into feeling small, bothersome, and crazy for struggling when they don’t feel we should.

I have gone over this before, remember this post? But that’s fine. I’m will not going away. I’ll address it until I die.

I’m done with the mask. I will not going to tell you I’m fine, when I’m not. I also won’t breakdown sobbing and unleashing all my problems on you. Instead, I’m going to be quieter than usual when you see me while I work things out. It’s going to get uncomfortable, but I’m ok with that. Uncomfortable is where change begins.

I’m so sorry if my depression is inconvenient for you. Clearly, I am doing this to make you uncomfortable and cause as much disruption to your life as possible. It’s a well known fact that people choose depression and other mental illnesses out of spite most of the time. And for the fame and admiration which comes with being labeled. Right?

I realize that even though it takes a 30 minute pep talk and prayer meeting to will myself out of bed, I am making life your life hard by not being perkier in the mornings.

Even though I am often exhausted from insomnia and constantly talking my anxiety down to a manageable level, you’re right. It’s my responsibility to make sure everyone else is completely at ease around me at all times. Instead of a simple polite smile when you say good morning, I will try to light up like the Griswold family’s Christmas lights and enthusiastically greet you. That won’t feel fake or awkward for anyone.

Its great when you ask what will make me happy. Obviously, I withhold that one thing from myself just to ruin your day. I am thinking of a number between 1 and 100 billion, as soon as we reach that number with the question, I will spill it and we’ll all have a good laugh at this game.

You get bonus points by demanding I tell you what is making me sad. That is definitely going to help – especially if you can raise your voice during the conversation. Maybe…just maybe, you’ll be the one to “set me straight”. Worst case, we’ll be closer to the secret number.

Please keep inviting me to things only to get offended if I politely decline. If I do go, get ready to be irritated when I don’t have as much fun as you think I do. Probably a good time to interrogate me more too. Maybe in front of a group? That might help.

Thank you for telling me about 10 people you know who are in worse positions than me. Nothing pulls one out of depression faster than knowing things can get worse. Make sure to use lots of shame and guilt to hammer that point home. People with depression and mental illness are known for having large amounts of self esteem. Good idea pointing those faults out to bring us all back down to Earth.

Clearly, I choose to struggle with food, sleep, chores, work, socializing, and productivity. All because I want to annoy and inconvenience those around me. I’m a very selfish person as I wake up every day and decide “I’m going to be sad today. Again.”

Actually, I’m sorry I’m not sorry at all.

I’m sorry if me speaking up, speaking out, and asking for help is uncomfortable for you. I’m sorry if its frustrating you or inconvenient for you. I know I’m supposed to suffer in silence out of respect for your comfort level and desired ignorance.

Wait, no I’m not. Not sorry at all. My job isn’t to make you feel good about the world. Your happiness and level of comfort are not my responsibility. Stop trying to make it so. I will not apologize if my depression makes you feel uncomfortable.

Requests that I just be happy, just be fun, smile more, and make others comfortable is ridiculous. I’m going to admit when I’m struggling and need help until everyone can start thinking about how we can help people, instead of how we can try to convince people they should be fine – then hope they hide their pain.

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When a stranger’s suicide hurts deeply

I didn’t know you personally, but I knew who you were. I’d seen you walking the high school halls with your beaming smile and dimples in the past. You were so beautiful to me. So cool. The kind of girl I hoped I’d be in my own senior year, still four years away.

I didn’t know you personally but as it turns out, you were very special and important to many people in my life. Its clear that your friendly smile touched more than just an awkward freshman girl who never spoke to you.

I didn’t know you but I feel your story so deep. To my core. I understand. Wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, guide….while walking through a dark fog. One that consumed you. One that overcame you.

I cheered for you (and voted for you!) when you ran for office. I love seeing strong, intelligent women making strides in the world. I love the passion and hope thaty comes weeken people fight for change they believe in whole heartedly. I admire the difference you wanted to make.

I loved seeing you speak out for mental health. You were brave. You made it ok for people like me to get help and speak out. You started hard coversations to end the stigmas and help others come out of the darkness.

Now, as I scroll my Facebook I see your face, still covered with your warm smile and dimples, over and over. Pictures of your beautiful children. Memories being shared by people I love left here hurting.

Walking into chuch, the audible reaction to your passing left tears stinging my eyes. Those who loved you surrounded by love. Enveloped in arms of friendship and family. Every one in disbelief.

I am so sorry the sadness was so deep.

I am so sorry you saw no other way.

I am so sorry that life wasn’t as kind to you as it should have been.

I am so sorry that so many are hurting for you now.

I am so sorry I never said hello in the hallway.

I wish you felt how far your ripples reached. How many hearts you touched, both known and unknown to you. I wish you knew me. The conversations you led, the people you inspired, the struggles you shared that made us feel less alone.

You helped make it ok for people like me to speak up. Sometimes, we all need a little extra help and love. You gave others the courage to ask for it and, more importantly, showed others how to compassionately give it. Even through your loss, many others have been saved by your courage.

The world is a better place because you were in it, just a little bit darker now that you’re gone. Those of us still fighting the battle mourn you, you were like us, but we will fight on through the darkness. For you, for us, and for those we love or don’t even know – we will carry on the mission. You weren’t alone. Neither are we.

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

–John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING OR HAVING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS – PLEASE REACH OUT TO A LOVED ONE, FRIEND, OR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:

800-273-8255