Joy in April

Oh my, how time flies! I fully intended to write my monthly update on my word of the year, which is “JOY”, last Thursday, but forgot. Thankfully, there’s still about ten hours left in April to share my reflections on how I did this past month. I am linking up with the Word of the Year linky, as well as Lisa’s One Word link-up.

Early in the month, I did quite well. I enjoyed my craft of polymer clay to the fullest. Among other things, I discovered color mixing. I was full of new ideas and really burst with energy.

I also enjoyed quiet time and my spiritual life. I was engaging with the Bible on a daily basis.

I also spent time involved with personal growth in general, watching videos on, for example, the enneagram. This is not necessarily Christian, but it is not against the faith either and there are many Christian enneagram experts.

Unfortunately, as the month progressed, I slipped into an emotional rut. I have been neglecting my Bible reading and my quiet time now involves falling asleep to instrumental music. That isn’t bad in itself, but I’d really like to spend more time focusing on God. I’ve noticed, in fact, that I’m drifting away from Him. I could blame this on my low mood, but really it could be the other way around too.

I also haven’t been enjoying my creativity as much as I used to. This goes for both my polymer clay and my blogging. With blogging, this may have to do with the fact that the #AtoZChallenge is coming to an end and the last letters are usually harder than the first. However, I don’t engage as much with other bloggers as I used to early in the month either.

I am also not enjoying my food as much as I used to. Like, we had pizza yesterday. While I appreciated it, I didn’t savor the food as much as I would like to have done. I am reminded in this sense of the mindful eating exercise I did in early March and how I’d really like to apply it to foods I love more.

Overall, early in the month, I did quite well, but towards the end of the month, I’ve been slipping towards the opposite of joy. This brings me to one of the exercises that Lisa provided in her One Word E-mail for this month (I think), which was to look to the opposites of your word and reflect on what they can tell you about your word. Some of the most relevant antonyms of joy include:


  • Depression: well, I wouldn’t say I’m depressed (yet), in the clinical sense. Having been there, I know that my current low mood is different, but I do need to watch out that I don’t slip into the pit of depression.

  • Melancholy: I’ve definitely been feeling this way. Melancholy is a bit of a low mood, with an edge of romanticism attached. I feel this resonates with me in relation to how I feel about living in my current care home.

  • Misery: this sounds a bit, well, too negative for me right now. A state I want to avoid at all cost.

  • Sadness: yes, I’ve felt sad when my fellow client passed away early this month, but other than that, sadness just doesn’t cut it.

  • Seriousness: certainly, yes. I’ve been far too serious about my life lately, which has resulted in my not enjoying the fun parts.

All this being said, in the coming month, I’m hoping to gain some joy back and crawl out of the pit of melancholy and seriousness.

Excitement: Things I Enjoy About My Creative Work #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter E post in the #AtoZChallenge. There are many E words related to creativity, but I decided to share the things I enjoy about being creative. I chose the word “Excitement” for my post title, because that was the title of the prompt in The Year of You for Creatives that inspired this idea. Now, of course, I can no longer cheat and use another “Ex” word for the letter X, but I try to avoid that at all cost anyway. Tomorrow, if I don’t make up my mind before then, I’m going to share about my creativity-related frustrations.

The first thing I enjoy about being a creative, is learning about other artists’ creative process. I love watching and reading tutorials on the various crafts I enjoy and they truly inspire me. This is more of a recent development, since doing soap making in 2016. Before then, I’d just create what I wanted without any sort of tutorial. This, however, often led to disastrous results.

Another thing I love about my creative work, is shopping for new supplies. Either that or just looking for supplies online without actually buying them. I have a huge wishlist of things I want to buy someday. About a month ago, I decided to put some of them on my online birthday wishlist rather than buying them myself. My birthday isn’t until the end of June, so this is quite the exercise in patience.

A thing I especially love about all of my creative endeavors, is being able to share them online. I am in groups on Facebook for pretty much every craft I dabble in currently (and maybe even some I don’t anymore). I cannot really imagine being creative without sharing my work at all.

Lastly, something I am currently very excited about is finding new techniques to try with my crafts. For instance, today I tried to mix a color with polymer clay using my precision kitchen scale (yay, I finally bought one!). Knowing it turned out as I wanted to (for which, in the case of a color, I of course rely on my staff) is pure delight.

Joy in March

Hi all. It’s time to reflect on my one word for this year again. I am joining the Word of the Year linky, as well as Lisa’s One Word linky. As those who’ve visited me in January or February will know, my word for this year is JOY.

I had quite a few moments of pure joy this past month. Being able to go outside without a jacket for the first time this year, for example. I loved the beautiful weather! I also loved being able to take beautiful flower photos, especially when I could snap them myself.

In the creative area, I’ve struggled to find pure joy. I mean, I’ve been frustrated by a need to be productive rather than merely enjoy my creative process. As such, I’ve often been tempted to get discouraged and, as a result, give up too quickly. This is the case with my macrame, of course, but also with my polymer clay. When I felt I couldn’t take my work to the next level, I would rather easily let it go completely instead of enjoying the craft.

An area in which I’ve done really well with respect to finding joy, is food. Two weeks ago, the dietitian had me and my staff do a mindful eating exercise. We were given a slice of a tangerine in a bowl and first had to merely look at it while pretending we were astronauts stranded on a faraway planet. Then, we could touch it, smell it, lay it on our lips and finally take a tiny bite. All the while, we had to rate how edible we considered this food, given that this was alien food so we had no idea what it was. Once we had taken the tiny bite, we were supposed to wait for how long it’d take for the taste to completely leave our mouths.

The point of the exercise is, of course, that, as a recovering bulimic, I am still tempted to eat, say, a bag of candies all one after the other without even tasting them. The idea of this exercise is to counter this by actually being aware of every little bite or piece of candy and its feel, taste, etc. I have since been quite able to implement this when having treats.

I also have been able to enjoy my marriage more. I am less plagued by thoughts that my husband will leave me than I was some months and certainly years ago. I try to truly, fully focus on my husband when we talk on the phone in the evening. It’s still hard, because I either am losing my hearing or my headphones are failing. Thankfully, I’m going to Lobith again tomorrow, so will be visiting my husband in real life again. It’s been a while!

How have you been doing with your word for 2022?

Joy in February

Last month, I shared my one word for 2022: JOY. Today, I want to share an update on how I’ve been doing with this one word. I am joining the Word of the Year link-up, which I didn’t join in with last month (because I didn’t see it on time to join in), as well as Lisa’s One Word linky.

Overall, I’ve been doing pretty well remembering my word for the year and seeking joy in the ordinary moments. I didn’t experience any mind-blowingly delightful moments, but I did enjoy the everyday.

In particular, what I’m happy about, is that I found joy in the treats I could have every now and again now that I’m on a healthy food plan and don’t allow myself to indulge in whatever I please. Now that I have COVID, I’ve ditched the diet and am more or less allowing myself to eat what I want, but I’m still not overeating, thankfully. I mean, I have a bag of licorice on my table (under the guise of it helping with sore throat, which I don’t even have right now), which I could’ve eaten all in one sitting had I not been mindful. Instead, I am truly savoring each sweet.

I also enjoyed my creative hobbies quite a bit over the past month. Though in this respect, I still look to improve myself, I can still find joy in the mere act of creating. Earlier this week, I found intense joy in my first polymer clay color mixing experiment.

Because I sometimes struggle to find the energy to start “larger” activities such as polymer clay, I also asked my day activities staff about some easier to get started activities. She brought me a simple game with a board and insertable small pieces in different colors. I have been enjoying doing this activity with my staff or alone.

Lastly, I didn’t see my husband a lot over the past month, but I did enjoy speaking to him on the phone and texting him everyday. I obviously won’t say that seeing him less made me appreciate his visits more, as I wish we could have seen each other each week. However, it definitely was a lesson in enjoying the ordinary and delighting in the extraordinary.

Finally, both my husband and mother-in-law have been very sympathetic now that they know I have COVID. I am truly grateful for both of their thoughtful text messages. I also was positively surprised to get a call from my sister as soon as I posted about my positive COVID test on Facebook early Wednesday morning. You might think that the fact that I was surprised, means I view her negatively, as I assume most people expect their family to sympathize when they have COVID. While I admit this is in part true, I also think I shouldn’t take sympathy for granted.

My One Word for 2022

Ever since 2014 or 2015 I think, I’ve been sharing a word of the year on my blog. I’ve never been paying close attention to them over the rest of the year and, as a result, they never meant much to me. This year, I intend to change that. I’ve signed up to a project organized by Lisa of Lisa Notes called One Word 2022. Lisa has a Facebook group dedicated to discussing our One Word and a monthly linky that goes live each 22nd of the month. I originally intended to wait until then to write this post, but I feel inspired to write it now and Lisa said to write whenever you feel like writing.

The year 2021 was a really creative year, so initially I thought to choose a word such as “Create” for 2022. This year though hasn’t started off on a crafty note. Besides, isn’t the point of a word of the year to challenge yourself?

I came across a post on another blog a few days back (sorry, I can’t remember which blog) reminding the reader about the qualities of a follower of Christ, such as kindness, patience, etc. One of them was joyfulness and there I had my word. My One Word for 2022 is going to be: JOY.

Dictionary.com defines “Joy” as: “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”

“Something exceptionally good”, however, is subjective. For this year, I intend to look for joy in the everyday. I am reminded in this respect of a note on the wall in my mental health agency building that says: “Be grateful for the little things; at some point you’ll realize they’re the big things.”

This year, I will aim to focus on cultivating a grateful, positive attitude towards whatever I experience in life. I don’t need more of anything. Life itself is a reason to rejoice.

What’s your word for 2022?

I’m joining #LifeThisWeek.

#IWSG: Writing Stressors and Delights

IWSG

Hi everyone. Can you believe it’s December already? I in a way can’t, but in another sense am so grateful November is finally over! It’s the first Wednesday of the month and this means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. The past month was pretty good as far as writing goes. I published 21 posts again, which I considered “okay” in August but now am rather content with. I also actually did some creative writing, which I am really happy about. I am striving for 300 blog posts in 2021 and am pretty sure I can make this happen. After all, I’ll need to publish 20 posts for that this month and December is a longer month than November and a less stressful one at that (for me at least). Wish me luck!

Now on to this month’s optional question. This month, we are asked to write about what stresses us the most in our writing and what delights us. My main stressor is the pressure I put onto myself, for instance of having to write a certain number of posts (okay, okay, I know, I just did that!).

Another big and related stressor is the comparison trap. I mean, I compare myself to more successful writers and bloggers and see how much they get done and I get stressed out about it. For example, I’ve always wanted to write a book but cannot get myself to write this many words at all even during NaNoWriMo. It probably doesn’t help that NaNoWriMo is in November, but then again I couldn’t do it during any month. I probably won’t ever write a book.

Of course, there are a lot of less successful writers and bloggers out there too. Bloggers who barely post once a week, for example. And how do you define success, anyway? I mean, I’ve never wanted to earn money with my blog and I still delight in every comment I receive.

This brings me to the delights of writing. My main reason for writing is to express myself, but I definitely find huge joy when I feel I’ve touched someone else’s heart. I don’t write for my stats, regardless of my inner critic’s attempts to make me do so. Rather, if I find that I’ve genuinely been an inspiration to one person, that’s far more important than a dozen generic comments.

A Bottle of Hope

Today, I feel stuck in the twilight zone between good and bad. I’m not feeling as hopeless as I was two weeks ago, but I can’t quite say I’m feeling happy either. I really feel numb. This seems to be the story of my life anyhow. I’ve rarely felt truly happy. Sometimes, I feel dysregulated, desperate, out of control. Some other times, I feel a glimmer of joy. That rarely lasts long. This afternoon, I experienced such a glimmer of joy when making a necklace. Then this evening, I was in a small crisis again.

Still, I have this instinct to survive, to go on. I still keep this bottle of hope that I know at some level will always be available to me. Even at times when I’m most dysregulated, I haven’t intentionally taken steps that would really end my life. I still, deep down, have this will to continue.

Now if only I could put the energy I’m putting into merely keeping hope alive, into actually practising contentment. If only I could pick up that bottle of hope from the shelf, instead of letting it sit there until I (someday, probably never) find the perfect life circumstances. Keeping hope alive is one thing, but living a life of joy and contentment, is quite a bit further up there.

This post was written for Eugi’s Weekly Prompt and Michelle’s July 1 writing prompt

If I Have a Good Day…: Ramblings on Fear of Joy

Today is a slightly better day than yesterday. I actually managed to make a soap for a staff and also go on walks. I even reached my daily step goal! In addition, I have been exploring my faith.

Still, fear of joy is haunting me. Until a few years ago, I never knew it was a thing. That is, I had read about it on a fellow trauma survivor’s website. That was many years ago already, but I never quite understood what it meant. I never realized I experience it. And yet I do.

I think this fear is intertwined with my core belief that, if people truly knew me, they’d abandon me. It is the exact opposite, in a way, and yet it’s similar too. I mean, if people abandon me regardless, why bother trying my best?

Deep down, I feel that people are going to abandon me if they find out how wicked I am. I also, conversely, feel that people are going to abandon me if they think I can cope fine on my own. And these different views are not mutually exclusive. After all, my psychologist at the mental hospital thought I was bad and manipulative, and yet she also thought I would cope fine on my own.

My belief that people don’t see the real me, the wicked, attention-seeking, manipulative me, makes me want to disappear. It makes me feel ashamed of my needs. But it also causes intense anger, because at the core maybe I want to prove myself right.

On the other hand, my belief that people don’t see my genuine need and think I can cope fine on my own, leads to actual care-seeking behavior. It’s not the same as attention-seeking, but maybe in my current context of a care facility, it’s worse.

I have a sense that both of these beliefs cause me to fear joy. On Sunday, I felt abandoned by the staff. Then on Monday, I was trying to “prove” that I’m more needy and hence more wicked than my staff believe. Today though, I’m feeling slightly better, but this scares me. It scares me because I’m convinced I’ll be expected to cope on my own if I’m managing.

Maybe that psychologist was right after all that I have dependency issues. I worry the staff will agree at some point and this in fact reinforces care-seeking behaviors. Which, of course, is counterproductive.

My All-Time Favorite Food

I was feeling a little down on Sunday, so I checked out the gratitude section of the book Journaling With Lisa Shea. This is really a collection of ten 32-day guided journals and an introduction to journaling. I bought the entire thing for a deal price on Amazon several years ago.

I already covered some topics from this section before, but one I didn’t write about is my favorite food. The prompt asks me to recall what favorite food makes me brim with joy and sigh with delight. It goes on to ask whether I can remember eating it for the first time.

Well, my all-time favorite food has to be Domino’s pizza! I am not 100% sure whether this was the first time I ever had it, but I think it was. It was sometime in late 2010 or early 2011. My husband, then still my fiancé, lived in student accommodation in Kampen, where he studied theology. His studio was real close to the train station, the river IJssel, and several snack corners and fast food restaurants. Including Domino’s.

I can’t remember which pizza I took that first time. It might’ve been during my six months or so of trying to pass as a vegetarian to my fiancé, who was a vegetarian at the time. I might also have taken one of their chicken pizzas. I think I did that. I probably also chose red peppers as an extra topping, as I was and still am a lover of very spicy food.

Nowadays, I almost always choose a chicken kebab pizza, but I think they didn’t have that one back then. I also always look at the new and noteworthy category, because sometimes they have truly delicious pizzas. I particularly remember one called something like Chicken Zanzibar, which had a piri-piri swirl on it. I topped it off with extra red peppers. Since I took a large pizza and didn’t have the monstrous appetite I’d expected, I left my husband a slice. He pretty soon texted me with a list of swear words about how spicy the pizza had been. Even thinking back to that makes me laugh.

A Beautiful Memory: Clowns

It looks like, even though I’m still depressed, I’m getting a little bit of my writing mojo back. I have at least been commenting more on other people’s posts and feel like I want to write again. I was inspired to write this post by a question over at Pointless Overthinking. The question was about your most beautiful memory from last year. In 2018, my most beautiful memory was of saying goodbye at my old day activities. I already posted about that when it actually happened though. For this reason, I’m choosing another memory to share.

On November 23, 2017, my old day activities organized a “day out” for all clients. The reason it was called that was because they get money to take each client on an outing each year. This hadn’t happened in years though and, with many clients being profoundly and multiply disabled, it would’ve been hard. Instead of going out with those who could do this, the staff chose to have a “day in”. They organized for two clowns to visit the center.

I attended the group for profoundly and multiply disabled people at the time. I am not profoundly disabled, but I most enjoyed the sensory activities at that group. The clowns visited us and started interacting with the clients. None of the other clients can talk, but they thoroughly enjoyed it. So did I.

In addition to the clowns visiting, the staff had organized for a snack and fries delivery truck to come by. The clients at my group couldn’t make it clear what they wanted from the truck, so at first I too was just given a particular snack. When I discovered you were actually allowed to order your own snacks and fries, and as much as you wanted, I joined the people at the more able industrial group to fetch myself snacks. It was a ton of fun.

I was reminded of this day a few weeks ago, when a staff’s ddaughter visited us practising as a clown. She was in the process of auditioning to become a hospital clown and wanted some practice. She was really good. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass the auditions though.