Welcome to Wellness Weekly coming to you every Wednesday. This will be a weekly series, sort of like a Letter from the Editors that will rotate between Morgan, Lara and Luigi with the occasional guest. We’ll hold space on the Dirt to check-in on our Sixth Sense: the term we use to refer to our spirit, our intuition, our inner power. And because while we exist in the world alongside our other Five Senses, we’ll do a check-in of those, too.
This week, as we continue our monthly theme of Joy, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joy’s less loved, often neglected, but at times very necessary sibling emotion, Discomfort.
At Smudge, we like to engage in an exercise with what we call our Core Value Deck. (The deck can be found in day one of our 10 Magical Days of Self-Care) The Core Value Deck is a simple stack of cards, each labeled with a word that relates to a belief, feeling, or guiding principle that we can use to help navigate our decision-making and behavior in order to lead a more purposeful and intentional life. While the cards can be used in many ways, my preferred method is to simply separate the cards into a yes and no pile until I narrow it down to my primary Core Value. It changes from time to time depending on my shifting priorities or life events, but the practice of revisiting and conducting this exercise on a regular basis has served me well in centering and grounding my action in something that is meaningful to me.
Last time I did the Core Value exercise, it was a few months ago, as we were starting to think about a re-entry into a post-quarantine world. The Core Values that I ended up deciding between were Happiness and Joy. I chose joy.
My reasoning was this… Happiness to me is an aspirational state of being that connotes to me a desire to limit the bumps in the road. I think of serenity, calm, being even-keeled — a desire to limit the discomfort. And while I 100% understand the desire to avoid the dips and struggles, I also acknowledge that 1. That’s not real life; and 2. That approach to life can be limiting. Because the truth is that life is full of those dips and struggles and while you can choose to ignore them and skate through an existence that doesn’t face things head-on, you might also be choosing to miss out on the truly exhilarating moments that a life centered on merely being happy might pass over.
I think I used to live my life through the Core Value of being Happy; I suspect a lot of us do. I spent a lot of energy avoiding interpersonal conflict, keeping the peace, being risk averse. And it was … fine. (More than fine, to be honest — we should all be so lucky.) But it is when I am living my life through the lens of Joy that I am most passionate, most excited, and most authentically and enthusiastically myself.
I’ll give two examples — one deep and one not-so-deep — of how this plays out.
One is when I decided to go to therapy for the specific purpose of dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. (Spoiler alert: this is the deep one.) If I was choosing to be only happy, this is not a project I would have signed up for. The journey was anything but cozy a lot of the time. In the years that followed, I cried, screamed, and retreated more than I had ever done my first forty. It was deeply uncomfortable. But on the other side of that, having confronted what had been buried inside in a place I was terrified to run toward, is a feeling I can only fully describe accurately as joy. I pushed through feelings of shame, guilt, and resentment to find an existence that was marked instead by liberation, self-acceptance, and boldness. Life felt unfettered and full of possibility. I don’t think I would have found the joy without the discomfort, and I think it was completely worth it.
Here’s the fun one. This week, some friends and I made a Friday night trip to Six Flags to ride roller coasters. (Yes, I swear am a fully grown adult.) It had been a long time for all of us and while we prepped for the trip by regaling each other with tales of how much we loved them as kids, there was a collective sense of trepidation about spending four hours flying in all directions at gut wrenching speeds. We could have gone the happy route and grabbed dinner at our favorite restaurant — it would have been nice. It would have been completely okay. But instead we waited in lines for way too long with people way too young to be strapped in and catapulted to the sky. We screamed, we got dizzy, we were at times very uncomfortable. But we also laughed like we haven’t in months and felt more connected to ourselves than probably all year. We found joy.
I realize this isn’t the most earth-shattering revelation, but one that I share as worthwhile nonetheless — particularly as many of us are about to go do things that our bodies, minds, and souls are going to experience as uncomfortable. Dig into the difficult stuff. Ride the roller coaster. Transcend the desire to just be happy. Joy will be there waiting for you with open arms.
Here’s what’s going on with my other senses this week:
As I pack my bags for the first adult vacation since the pandemic started, I have my sights set on watching the new comedy, Girls5eva, about a former pop girl group’s second chance at making it big during my plane ride. Ridiculous fake pop songs, late 90’s nostalgia, and a cast that includes Busy Phillips, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Sara Bareilles? Yes, please.
As more and more venues start announcing their outdoor summer concert lineups, I find myself giddy at the prospect of listening and dancing to live music again. Here in the Bay Area, we have Outside Lands and Bottle Rock to look forward to. Standing in long lines for exorbitantly expensive drinks has never sounded so good!
I’m a sucker for a summer scent and while we’re not quite there yet, I am already scoping out what might take center stage this year. A friend recommended Everyday Oil and I think it’s taking the early lead. Clean and entirely plant-based, I love that it is a unisex multi-tasker that smells like a more grown-up version of what I would have worn in my crunchy college days.
There are certain occasions worthy of a celebration and taking my teenager to his first Covid vaccine shot definitely fit the bill. We marked the occasion with some soft serve black sesame ice cream from Japantown’s Uji Time Dessert, complete with a waffle cone in the shape of a fish. I was reminded of sweet triumphs and a family trip to Tokyo — two things that I will never take for granted.
I did something this week that is the opposite of my typical 30 minutes or less approach to cooking: I prepared fava beans. There was something extremely meditative to the physical process of shucking, blanching, and peeling the skin off of each individual bean — and the bright green payoff on top of a salad screams of Spring. Highly recommend tackling it when you have some free time on your hands, or when you need to give yourself and your brain a quiet timeout.