The Joy Quest



The thing I have learned about friendship is that you find the most amazing friends in the most unlikely places. And the thing that takes me aback every time again is how we relate to each other on so many levels. With one friend, I skype once a month. Our intention is to support each other’s becoming, but we talk about everything, including self-made lipstick pouches. The thing she made me realize is that I want more joy in my life, unadultered joy. She is on the same quest. She has a Jewish background, me a judeo-christian. The thing we have in common, amongst other things, is that we both have a strong sense of guilt. Not the obvious visible kind, but a pervasive undercurent, something that is always present. We live a guilt-infused life. I first realized this during a session of psychodynamic therapy.

Years ago, I had been referred to this therapist by my doctor, because I felt my extreme tiredness had more to do with outdated beliefs than with anything physical. After listening to my story, the therapist wrote some words on A4s (without me seeing which) and let me put them face down on the ground as I pleased. Then she asked me to go stand on one of the A4s. As I was standing on the first white A4, I felt nothing, trying really hard, the best I could come up with was ‘heaviness around the heart.’ “Right!” I thought to myself. Stepping on the next paper, I was in for a surprise: the temperature in the room changed, it got warm, and I was flooded with uncomfortable feelings and emotions that weren’t there before. Standing on the next paper, I felt such sadness and tears came pouring from me like it would never end. The last paper was the weirdest. I just couldn’t stand still, with my feet ‘glued’ to the floor, I was swinging to all sides, and I felt ‘onbestemd’ (vague, undefined, indeterminate, literally: without destiny). I stood on the first paper again, and with a more open mindset, I was able to refine the heaviness around my heart to guilt. Then the therapist asked me to turn around the A4s so we could see which word was written under them. The first read ‘normal’ – my normal, the second ‘incubator’, the third ‘tiredness’, and the fourth ‘Hermien’.

In the past years, I actively worked on embracing and releasing the pain I felt in relation to ‘incubator’ and ‘sadness’. As a result, I started to embrace not only my name (which until then I had not felt connected to) but everything that is related to it. In the last year, I somehow descended into myself. I know it sounds vague, but I no longer feel undefined. I feel as if, for the first time, I fit into myself, like my body, mind and soul fit together like a puzzle. Yet apart from becoming more and more aware of the feeling of guilt in every area of my life, I had no clue what to do with it. This week, after talking to my friend, it hit me: the antidote to guilt is joy.  Last week, my friend had told me she had been organizing her stuff these last weeks. She had discovered Mari Kondo’s organization philosophy and she had gotten hooked. She explained to me that it was all about joy, that you only keep the things that ‘inspire joy.’ That made sense, big time. For years, I have looked for ways of organizing my life better. And I only keep things that I either love, are functional, and preferably both. It works to a degree, but the ‘functional’ category is a hotchpotch. I can see how a big part of my life is still a hotchpotch. I am still holding on to things, emotions and ideas I don’t need anymore, including the completely outdated, culturally-induced sense of guilt.

I have never been so clear on what I want. I want to live a joy-inspired life. I am going to let go of anything that doesn’t inspire joy in my life. From the cloths I wear to the foods I eat to the activities I undertake, the thing I’ll be focusing on is joy. I AM joy and I want my life to reflect that.


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