My Search for Joy

July 4th, 2021 by Joan Maiden

This morning as I walked along the shore, I felt extremely sad and wondered where my joy had gone. The past few days, I haven’t been very joyful even though joy has been a recent theme in my writing. I wondered how I lost my joy and what I needed to do to get it back.

I returned from a visit with family reminded of how fragile life is. My elderly aunt, who was always vivacious, is suffering from dementia. Large pieces of the person I remember and love aren’t there anymore. Another loved one is dealing with cancer. I arrived home to the news that a 63-year-old friend dropped dead of a massive heart attack. He was active and looked to be in perfect health.

Fear has been a companion for as long as I can remember. I deal with it better now, but as I contemplated how fragile life is, fear engulfed me once again. Fear was drowning my joy. Joy cannot coexist with the regret of yesterday, nor the fear of tomorrow. Joy can sit with sadness and grief, and walk hand-in-hand with hope and gratitude. It doesn’t need a smile to exist. Joy is not happiness. They are two entirely different things. Happiness depends on outside circumstances, but joy is an inside job. Joy is embracing peace and hope in the midst of chaos.

I wondered what I needed to do to once again discover my joy. I walked over to a park bench to sit and meditate awhile. Families contribute many of the benches in memory of loved ones. I rarely pay attention to the inscriptions, but as I sat on the bench, the words there seemed to jump out at me. They were my answer.

“Do what you love to do,” what brings you joy. Follow your passion. Find a purpose. Create. Walk in nature. Listen to joyful music. Joy blooms through connections. Spend time with joyful people and watch your own joy blossom.

Joy is a choice. It is deliberate and intentional. It doesn’t just happen. Joy is a choise to make today and every day. It is this moment; every moment. Joy is ready to be dived into, to be surrendered to. The Bible says “Joy comes in the morning”. With the dawn of each new day, you have a choice to make. Choose joy, hope, and gratitude. You can live with fear and miss out on joy, or do what you love, embrace joy and plan to live. Joy brings life to life.

 

Breaking Not Broken

May 7th, 2021 by Joan Maiden

Brokenness seems to be a popular topic on Social Media. I may describe myself as broken, but that really isn’t an accurate description. The definition of broken is “damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order; having no hope”. In contrast, the meaning of wounded is “injured, hurt by, or suffering from a wound”. A scar is “a lasting effect of grief, fear, or other emotion left by a traumatic experience; a mark left by damage.” Life often wounds me, and I proudly carry the scars to prove I can survive, but I am not broken.

When knocked down, even when it’s difficult, I seek the strength to get back up, eventually. I strive to carry optimism and hope, instead of the vision that life no longer works and there is no hope. As difficult as it is, I seek to look at every experience with gratitude, enthusiasm, and joy because, even when I’m wounded, the pain proves that I am alive, take chances, experience life, and each wound forges my strength.

The wounds and scars have made me more powerful and stronger than I ever imagined. Because of them, I have the strength to break the chains that have bound me to the limitations of fear, regret, lack of self-confidence, and doubt. I am breaking, not broken.

My #1 Secret to Staying Young

February 17th, 2021 by Joan Maiden

February is my birthday month. As I enter my 68th year, I have no idea what 68 is supposed to look and feel like. I am constantly bombarded with the image that youth is exemplified by glamour and sexiness and aging means disintegration. Even at 68, I still feel sexy and glamorous more often than old and decrepit.

My mother would often comment that she didn’t feel old but wondered where the old woman in the mirror came from. An older woman was walking in the park one day and we struck up a conversation. She told me that she was 92 and walked 10 miles per day. “I don’t feel any different inside than I did in college,” she told me.

Now I understand what they meant. Maybe youth isn’t a time of life, but rather, a state of mind and age is simply a sum of experiences. Losing dreams and ideals are more aging than the passing of years. Years may wrinkle my skin, but losing dreams will wrinkle my soul.

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not yet arrived. Today I stand on the threshold of things that are wonderful and new. New experiences await and I will maintain a sense of wonder and awe as I look forward to what’s next. I can’t wait!

 

To My Daughter

January 21st, 2021 by Joan Maiden

January 20, 2021 was a historical day for all women. As I watched the first woman to be sworn in as Vice President, I had tears in my eyes because I had doubted I would see it in my lifetime.  The glass ceiling is finally shattering.

When I was a young woman looking for a job in the newspaper ads (yes, real newspapers), they were listed as “Men’s Jobs” and “Women’s Jobs”. On job interviews it was common to be asked if I was planning on getting married and getting pregnant. Men working beside women in the exact same job were paid more with the reasoning men had to support families. The single man without a family, working beside the single mother working to support her children, earned more. Married women were typically paid less because, after all, they “had a husband to take care of them”.

When I became pregnant with you, my boss asked when I planned to quit. Maternity leave was not an option. Birth control was not always available to single women let alone a woman’s right to control her own body.

I am so proud of the strides you’ve made in your own career and life. The sky’s the limit now. Never forget what a strong woman you are and the strength of women when they unit.  My generation fought hard for equality. We now pass the torch to you and the generations of women to follow. We’ve come a long way, but remember to remain vigilant. Let NO ONE infringe on your rights for equality.

Love,

Mom

 

“Today I Give Myself the Gift of My Life”

December 8th, 2020 by Joan Maiden

I’m in quarantine. A co-worker has Covid19. These are scary times. As easy as it is to let fear and anxiety take over, I’m trying my best to keep a positive focus. Self-care is of up most importance for all of us in the midst of the fear and uncertainty running rampant. As easy as it would be to feel self-pity; it helps no one, especially me. In the midst of the feeling that life is out of my control, I realize that control is an illusion. I never had the control I thought I did. I can only control what I can; to practice self-care and how I think; to live my life in this moment and make the most of today.

Meditation, journaling, fresh air, exercise and sunshine are key elements for me to stay positive. Knowing that I took necessary precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask and sanitizing have gone a long ways to reduce my anxiety and fear that even though I’ve been exposed, my risk of contracting the disease is minimal. Having two weeks off work, I have no excuse not to spend the time with my writing. I plan to make the most of the gift of this time.

2020 has been especially challenging. This is the time of year to start thinking about gift giving and the holidays. Not being able to spend the holiday with family and friends in the normal traditions can lead to depression and a sense of loss. Traditions will have to change this year even though change is often difficult to embrace. It’s time to be creative. How can you reach out to cheer up someone? Maybe a phone call, a Zoom get together or a note or card in the mail. Everyone is hurting. Not only will you cheer up others, it will make you feel better. Doing for others is a form of self-care.

2020 has been a year of reflection more than most. It’s brought the realization of how fragile life can be. I’ve had to ask myself “Is this how I want to live the rest of my life, however long that may be?”

The gift I give myself this year is the gift of my life—to; live it day-to-day doing what brings me joy and fulfillment; to follow my passion and fulfill the purpose I’ve been put on earth for. 2020 has taught me the lesson to not put off my dreams until tomorrow. This moment in time is all I have.

(FYI: I had a Covid19 test today. I’ll keep you posted.)

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

November 9th, 2020 by Joan Maiden

Making decision has never come easy for me. I can mull things over for weeks and still be uncertain of what decision to make and often by the time I make a decision, it is too late–the opportunity is gone

Growing up, I wasn’t taught to make my own decisions, but doing what I was told was the expectation. When I had to make decisions for myself, they often did not seem to be the best choice.

In hindsight, what I regretted as poor decisions was more often than not a lesson I needed to  learn.

Now that I’m older, I’m beginning to realize that delaying making decisions is delaying living. It is missing opportunities and open doors. The decisions I choose to make are mine alone. Right or wrong, it is totally my choice. Any decision is better than no decision.

“I step out of the tomb of uncertainty. The power of decision is mine.”

 

 

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and nature, text that says '"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing." Theodore Roosevelt'

I Can See Clearly Now

October 7th, 2020 by Joan Maiden

My vision was never great, but I thought it was normal with glasses. Then I had cataract surgery and was amazed at how clearly I could see. I had been looking through a cloud. What I thought was normal, was far from it. The world was in focus for the first time since I could remember, and I realized how much I had been missing. It made me wonder how much of what I think is normal have I been viewing through a cloud?

Growing up in a small farm community in the Midwest clouded my vision of the world. Not being exposed to different races and cultures gave me a limited view. It was easy to assume that everyone had the same life experiences as me.

Visiting different parts of the world, and even parts of our own country was an eye-opening experience. Talking openly to people of diverse races, cultures, ages and backgrounds taught me that even though we may all seem different, when the vision is clear, we are all the same.

How clearly do I see myself or is that clouded by self-doubt, lack of confidence and other people’s perceptions–how they see me?

It is necessary to stay open-minded, ask questions and listen to people who are different than me. When I questioned my own reality about the world, people and even myself, the focus became clear and changed my life.

 

 

Dive Into Every Joy

August 18th, 2020 by Joan Maiden

It’s difficult in today’s world not to get in a funk. Not seeing family and friends or even being able to go out to dinner takes its toll, let alone the fear and anxiety of the pandemic. Throw in the hate, violence, racism and negativity we are bombarded with, it’s often hard to find joy.

This morning, turning the page in my journal, these words jumped out at me, “Dive into every joy!”

I started contemplated things that bring me joy that I’ve been neglecting. Music, meditation and writing were high on the list. What does it mean to dive into joy? Diving is letting go, free falling. Once you dive, you’re committed; there’s no turning back mid-dive. When you dive into the water, you are totally immersed. There is nothing else but the water. Whatever is happening on shore is meaningless. For me, diving into joy is completely embracing and giving myself to that which brings me joy and forgetting, at least for a time, everything else.

What joy can you dive into today?

 

My Shelter in Place Strategy

April 14th, 2020 by Joan Maiden

Starting week four of Shelter in Place, I feel like I’m handling it pretty well. When the order first came down, one of the first things I did was to load some library books on my Kindle so I would have plenty to read. The first book I read was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It proved to be especially appropriate. It is the story of a Russian aristocrat who was placed under house arrest during the Russian Revolution. He had been staying in a hotel in Moscow and was ordered not to leave the hotel for the rest of his life. Instead of the nice suite he had been inhabiting, he was relegated to a small room in the attic. His philosophy was no matter the circumstances one finds oneself in, make the most of it.

He had few personal belongings but he took a few to the attic to make it feel more like home. He took the high quality sheets he was used to and made up the small bed in the attic. Quality soaps were also acquired. He started his day with good coffee, dined well, dressed and kept up his daily grooming, keeping to a normal routine. His next strategy was to make himself as useful as possible to the hotel employees and was befriended by a little girl living at the hotel. The child’s curiosity was infectious and he willing joined in the games of exploring the hotel.

My take-away from the book, was I can’t control what is happening right now, but I can to make the most of it. I now have time for a long, leisurely bubble bath. I stocked up on the Starbuck’s French Roast I love and have even reacquainted myself with cooking and baking.

There is no excuse not to spend time writing, meditating and reevaluating where I’m heading in life.

Exercise is a priority. I’m still able to take walks while social distancing and do some kind of strength workout a few times a week. A website that has great, free workout videos is Fitness Blender. They have something for every level using equipment or no equipment.

I strive to eat healthy but don’t get restrictive. I’m monitoring my weight more diligently than during normal times and when I see it start to creep up, eating a lighter dinner does the trick.

This may be the best time to get out the good china and put some candles on the table—all those things we save for a special occasion. This virus has taught me that every day I’m healthy and alive is a special occasion.

Tomorrow I may even do something really radical and put on makeup.

Plan Courageously– Execute Fearlessly

January 7th, 2020 by Joan Maiden

This time of year it’s time to make resolutions for 2020. I am a master planner, goal setter and resolution maker. The lists are written and vision board for the new year started.

In reading the Letters of Seneca, I was hit square in the face with this 2000 year old wisdom. “The fool…is always getting ready to live” and “It’s easier to plan than to do.”

Too often for me, the planning gets in the way of actually executing my plans and living life the way I choose. Fear holds me back.

My resolution for the new decade, is to start spending more time doing than planning. Having a plan and a goal is important but it can’t get in the way of moving forward and taking action.

This decade will be my time to plan courageously and execute fearlessly.