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This Doesn't Have to Steal My Joy

When the big kids went back to school this fall, I committed to walk with my youngest daughter and dog everyday after they got on the bus. The decision was connected to my hope for more regular movement and time in nature. Rising with the sun and allowing sunlight to enter the eyes at the beginning of the day can have major benefits on your brain and circadian rhythms (check out the work of Dr. Andrew Huberman for more on this). What I found was a peace I had been missing while navigating home and family through the busy summer season. In the heat of summer in Texas, I realized I just wasn’t getting outside as much as my nervous system needed to. That first day, it was a massive feat to get 3 kids ages 10 and under dressed, fed, and organized before hopping on the bus at 6:38 a.m. My partner was beginning his work day at 7 so he would leave the house at 6 and I would be left to tie up all the loose ends solo. I had aimed to get myself and youngest dressed with a snack for the stroller ride and the dog on a leash ready to go so we could head out directly after the bus pulled away. Per usual, I started strong with incredible intentions but soon realized that this level of preparation was unsustainable for me. With grace, I gave myself a little more space to get dressed and ready for my walk after the kids got on the bus because there was no way I was getting up earlier than 5:00 a.m. The sun may have already risen and that was just going to have to be ok. What I failed to recognize in my great plan was that soon the sun would also be coming up later, meeting me in a softer awakening as we moved deeper into the fall season. You see, nature does her thing regardless of our important plans (one of the many reasons I love her so much).


Over the last few months, I’ve continued showing up even when things haven’t gone according to plan. Some days I wouldn’t get out to my morning walk until after it had turned noon. Guess what? It still counts. Each time I said yes to my walk, I gained something valuable. Sometimes it was an encounter with a deer. Other times it held an opportunity to stop and slow down with a very fussy toddler. I’ve learned important lessons through the podcasts listened to, songs that have met a grieving or joyful heart (and all the emotions in between), and oak trees I’ve walked alongside in silence. Each day, the sun would pass through the leaves slightly differently offering a brand new beauty never experienced before. I even tried to paint them while doing watercolors with my 2 year old one afternoon. There have been days it was impossible to go on a walk due to schedules or sickness, but because of what I have learned and experienced so far, I have a deep desire to continue my walking journey as much as I can.


As the weather has become colder in the early winter mornings, I decided I would start running. One thing you should know about me is that I hate running. Truly, it is an activity I avoid at all costs. The feeling of my heart pounding out of my chest and the burning in my lungs just triggers an aversion that doesn’t make complete logical sense. That said, I understand how good it can be for my cardiovascular health as well as being a warming activity when the weather is cold and making the outing shorter for my little one as not to have her in the cold for too long. The first time I ran it, I thought I was going to die. We are talking three quarters of a mile, friends. This is not marathon training. There is the slightest incline to the end of the loop I run and on the very last leg, I remember clearly meeting the familiar voice of “I can’t do it” with a simple and clear “I can”. Every step I took became an “I can”. Then- I did. I finished the loop without stopping and felt like the little engine that could. Inside my aching chest beamed a tiny pride in myself that was so very sweet. It was a moment that will continue to stay with me along with the words I found from deep within.


Just a couple mornings ago, I bundled up my little one and clipped the dog onto the leash and as we headed out, I noticed the first frost capping the tips of grass in the neighbors lawn. The morning was silent and as I rounded the corner, I was hit in the face with the most beautiful sunrise I’ve seen in a very long time. The shades of pink and orange met the deep greens and black of the shadows in the oak trees. There was a layer of fog sitting in the treetops and as the sun rays popped over the mist, a smile burst onto my face. I was overcome with gratitude for my present moment experience, my aging dog running with me, my health and ability to get up and run in the early morning, for the friendly neighbor waving a hello, the simplicity of the joy I felt in my heart. I rounded the corner to the last little hill before the end of my loop and my lungs started to burn. Things got hard and I could feel the beginning of the joy shift. Right in that moment, I saw the grass glitter with frost and it returned me to my smiling state. I heard a voice come through me that said “Hard things don’t have to steal my joy”. And when life sends you clarity like that, you write it down. So here I am- offering you the truth that whatever it is you are facing that is hard, you don’t have to let it steal your joy. In order to uncover your joy, healing work may be necessary. When we’ve faced trauma and pain it can be hard to connect to our joy center. That makes sense. So find supports the help you return to the state of joy you’ve been disconnected with. Practice finding joy in simplicity. Practice allowing joy to fill your heart. Then, make choices that protect your joy so you can share it with the world around you. Know that I am cheering you on. Your joy matters. 



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