“‘-monger’ just means somebody who’s gotten skilled at doing a particular thing… I invite you to be a Joy-monger. You can get good at this. It does not come from avoiding the pain of life, or repressing the heartbreak that comes our way inevitably. It comes from going all the way into the heart of it, and embracing the fragile, tenuous, uncertain nature of the whole thing. There’s a vapour-like, mist-like dimension of this experience we’re having. The joy comes when you fully embrace this.”
—Rob Bell, An Introduction to Joy
An ass-kicking from the universe
This week has kicked my ass (or arse, if you’re British, like me… I don’t know why, but ass seems less crude). The transition into the new moon phase (and no, I’m not an astrologer, so I have zero real wisdom on this to impart) has been extraordinarily heavy and fog-like, with bizarre and sudden flashes of buoyancy. Others in my circles have felt it too.
It has brought up a lot of repressed energy for me. In some ways, it’s been a relief to be focussing on something other than my usual wounds (the Not Good Enough / I’m Unlovable one is my go-to core wound). And it has brought new insights with it.
For instance, I noticed that I really let the troubled energy of loved ones bring me down – fast. My boy has been really struggling this week with Dad being back at work full time on top of the compounding lockdown stresses of not seeing friends and being stuck with only his little sister for company. I get it! But being autistic (undiagnosed) and bipolar (diagnosed), he doesn’t respond to most of the ways I help folk to alchemise their energies. In fact, he twists himself inwards even more. It’s both heart-wrenching and unendingly frustrating as a parent.
On top of this, my cycles completely changed. Instead of my usual new-moon time, I was already done and finished by then! So instead of in-sync inward-focussed time and energy, my Spring-time clashed with the quiet turmoil of the new moon. Cue crazy, confusing and conflicting energies abound!
Honouring low energiesI definitely lost my joy and my higher vibrations took a holiday. But instead of spiralling into despair and utter darkness (as would have been my norm a few years ago), I took the time to embrace rest and solitude – even if that meant sleeping in longer, and letting the kids watch more Disney Plus.
It has been like a kind of suspended animation, where I’ve simply been processing. And I’m so, so incredibly happy that I have learned to allow these crucial times for myself.
Do you embrace periods like this, for healing, integration and processing? Or do you fall into guilt, shame and self-judgment for “being lazy and unproductive”?
Slapping on a fake smile doesn’t work
Today started with high tempers, raised voices, and the neighbours calling the police (oh yes, we keep it real round here!). While I pulled the duvet over my head, darling hub calmly explained to our bobbies exactly what the situation was and why we were all so fractious.
I also had to unplug myself from my duvet-fort and show myself (in knickers and tee, no less) to demonstrate my whole, unbloodied-existence. Oh the joys of real life! Once upon a time I would have been mortified by such an experience. But now I understand the full spectrum of life is truly where it’s at. We can all fake-smile and put out glossy instagram feeds as much as we like, but at the end of the day, there’s not one person alive who hasn’t got some emotional, relational and judgemental darkness to work on.
We just like to pretend it doesn’t exist for us. And simultaneously, we scoff and roll our eyes at spiritual “gurus” who espouse the radiant benefits of joy, peace, love and light.
How to do Joy without bypassing
They just be bypassing, we say. Spiritual Bypassing: it’s the worst.
And that’s why I am in LOVE with Rob Bell’s new video, An Introduction to Joy. This morning, after the police had left (pacified) and hub had taken the kids out for the day, I remembered a link I’d saved last night, to watch later.
Finding it, I threw back the duvet and abluted, dressed, yoga-ed and prepared breakfast while watching it. In no time at all I was giggling along and feeling as if I’d broken through the wall of fog.Crucially, he really gets to the golden nugget of something I’ve struggled to express for years. Allowing yourself to access Joy does not equal a bypass – not unless you stay stuck on the side of ignorance, indifference and naivety. But if we move through the darkness whilst honouring, acknowledging and fully embracing it, there is a point on the other side… into a new lightness. A lightness saturated with our wisdom of the darkness. A lightness which gently reminds us how very fragile life can be, and so our only real work on this earth, in our vapour-like existence, is to embrace Joy in every possible moment, and to keep getting better at doing so.
Embodied expression & alchemy at work
I spent the rest of the day in the studio, on this (not quite finalised) piece. It was originally envisaged very differently, and was going to be called “Turn into something beautiful” (prizes for guessing the inspiration!). As always though, embodied expression brings whatever it needs to the canvas, and as it birthed in front of me – with Rob Bell’s inspirational wisdom still reverberating within – it seemed to tell me that no, this is not so simple.
This is the War of Joy. And it is here to remind us to keep skilling up, in every damn moment we have left.