IT TAKES BALLS – The Joy Journey
I’m going to share the secret to life with you, which I didn’t get until I turned 50-years old. Are you ready for it?
Here it is. Just two simple, little words. BE YOU. Please, ponder that thought while I create the set for this story.
I think in pictures and when I’m creating, I see those pictures as well; literally in front of my eyes. The same goes for this story. Envision a brightly colored bouncy ball, the kind you most-likely played with as a kid. They sold for 99 cents in the summer and came in every color of the rainbow. Some of them multi-colored, available for purchase for an extra 25 cents.
For the purpose of this prose, picture three bouncy balls in front of you. The first is purple with a smiley face drawn in thick black marker, wearing a Peruvian pom hat, the kind with colorful braids, made of thick yarn hanging from each side. In the middle, a brightly colored rainbow sherbet ball with colors from fuchsia pink and orange to yellow and lime green, wearing a frown, drawn in black. Finally, a bright orange bouncy ball with a smiley face and a bandanna wrapped around its’ head and tied on the side.
Focus on the frown-faced, multi-colored bouncy ball for a moment.
Today, many of us are feeling lonely. We’re like chameleons and we’ll do anything to fit in. The need to belong and feel accepted is one of the most primal of all human needs, according to Marriage and Family Therapist, Darlene Lancer. There’s a little girl or little boy living deep inside each of us that needs to feel ACCEPTED, NURTURED, APPRECIATED and LOVED for who we are.
We’re all uniquely created with a purpose and I’m here to tell you that it’s impossible to run away from it. Well, it’s miserable, to say the least. It’s your job to find and discover your purpose.
This is my story. In first grade Catholic school, I was sitting in church waiting for mass to begin with the rest of my classmates when I heard the words, “You’re special.” Did Pam Meulemans hear that voice? Did Julie Heezen hear it? I knew I heard it.
Six years later, in seventh grade, I got called to the teacher’s desk in the back of the classroom. She was reading my religion book assignments and told me that she felt I was being called to become a nun. I was absolutely appalled. I like boys and don’t like rules. I wanted to grow up and be an artist and live in the big city.
I got married and had a son. I worked for an advertising agency in Chicago. I had an art licensing agent on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
Then, years later, I got cut off at the knees. I became unemployed. I got divorced and my son went off to college. I ended up in the Emergency Room.
Fast forward and I went back to school. I envisioned a new role, with a chosen employer and landed that job. Later, I was assigned to work on a project in an area I wasn’t trained in and it turned into a new division, under my direction.
I learned new ways of being. I found and discovered my purpose. Then, I heard a voice inside my head again. This time it said, “Your mission is to help others be themselves.” And, I live on Mission!
OK, God, Life, Universe, Spirit, I get it. You’re so funny!
Now, let the orange bouncy ball come into your field of vision.
This is me. Orange is my favorite color. I drive an orange BMW motorcycle made in Italy, my favorite place in the world. I’m a bit of a hippie. Today, I’m mostly happy.
It wasn’t always that way. The orange happy face turns to a frown.
Now, open your arms wide and receive the orange bouncy ball, as if your great aunt is passing you a baby at a bridal shower. I freely give this ball to you.
Wait? What? Yes, I just gave myself away.
“How did I do this,” you ask? I made up stories in my head, rather than have conversations with people. I made assumptions. I judged myself and others. I avoided my uncomfortable feelings and instead, used food as a way to cope. I still do and it does indeed feel good for a bit. I made someone else responsible for my woes, mostly my parents.
I’ll take the ball back now. Thanks for holding on to it. The official name for this behavior is Self-Abandonment, where we tend to do one of two things, or both, like me.
I SHAME MYSELF. Picture me slamming the orange bouncy ball with fury onto the ground.
I BLAME OTHERS. Envision my orange bouncy ball pummeling the purple bouncy ball.
Some of us may even choose to become responsible for everyone else’s balls. Picture yourself trying to juggle a bunch of balls, including your own.
What does this look like behind the scenes? I’ve tried to be like the rest of the group in order to fit in. I’ve changed colors and changed sides. Now, turn your focus back to our old friend, the chameleon, multi-colored ball.
Brene Brown, in her book, “Braving the Wilderness,” asks the question, “Is it belonging or fitting in?” She states, “We’re wired for connection, but it needs to be real and authentic. Trying to fit in is the loneliest place to be.”
So, I pose these critical questions to you. “Who are you? What makes you happy?”
Here’s how I started to find out. After that trip to the Emergency Department, I started running with a new friend. Her boyfriend told her to, “find her own friends.” My husband told me to, “get some hobbies.”
We found and formed a new circle of friends. For more on that story, go here http://itmakesmehappy.com/the-goddesses/. Friends became friends and we started getting together on Saturday mornings for a jog with coffee and bagels afterwards.
As the mornings turned to early afternoons, we realized the bond that was forming and the life lessons we were learning. We realized we weren’t bitter anymore. We were choosing to look at things differently and we were belly laughing and enjoying life.
While shopping one Saturday afternoon, Penny picked up a beautifully embroidered linen towel and said to Beth, “Dishtowels make me happy.” Then, Beth selected a bar of handmade soap from Italy, took a whiff and said, “Soap makes me happy.”
Soon, we were all calling out what makes us happy and the phenomenon of It Makes Me Happy! had begun. We started to take notice of the simple pleasures that our busy, pre-COVID lives seemed to rob from us. When I was unemployed and went back to school, we wrote and self-published a book called, “It Makes Me Happy!”
We didn’t know it at the time, but there’s actually a theory for what we accidentally discovered. Rick Hanson, author of “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence,” explains that our negative and critical thoughts are like Velcro. They stick and hold; while our positive thoughts are like Teflon and simply slide away.
We have an opportunity to trick our brains and literally rewire them. Seriously! Just as we get triggered by negative experiences, we can just as easily latch onto those positive experiences.
HOW IT WORKS:
REFLECT – It Makes Me Happy! Identifies a key area of happiness. Topics range from scents and smells to children and pets with a personal story shared, offering a moment of awakening, proven to inspire ideas.
WRITE – After recognizing possible areas for happiness and prompted by key questions, it’s time to acknowledge our unique thoughts and ideas by writing them down. Which then, helps us…
REMEMBER – When the item or area for happiness is brought back to a level of conscious awareness, it evokes a feeling of happiness time and time again.
Here’s an It Makes Me Happy! moment in action. Sunsets make me happy. When I experience a beautiful sunset, regardless of where it is, I stop and savor it. I almost got in an accident in Florida pulling off to the side of the road to take in the beauty, but that’s a story for another time.
Closer to home, I parked my car at a restaurant, about to pick up a takeout order when I witnessed a stunning spectacle. I stopped in my tracks, whispered, “It makes me happy,” embracing this precious moment for 15-seconds, imprinting the memory in my mind. Then, I snapped a photo and posted it on Facebook. One friend shared the picture he snapped at the same moment, another how she caught the sunset driving home with her kids. This beautiful synchronicity allowed us to connect across miles, unified in the shared experience.
It Makes Me Happy! isn’t meant to cure depression or resist traumatic biographies. The lesson and purpose is simple. By identifying key areas for happiness in our lives, we literally reprogram our senses and start to find joy in everyday living.
You’re invited to join us on this journey, “The Joy Journey.” Watch for an article each month focusing on a single area of happiness and you can begin to experience more joy each day. - It Makes Me Happy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In a world where loneliness has reached epidemic numbers, Karla Brooks, Founding Creator of It Makes Me Happy, LLC is passionate about creating, connecting, and inspiring community. This happens through Circle of Friends’ groups; a safe space offering love and acceptance, where healing begins and empowerment takes root and grows.
For more information about exploring a Circle of Friends group, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2JDN5RB. To reach Karla directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ItMakesMeHappy or Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/karlabrooks/