Measuring 2016 in Joy

So, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Yes, there were a lot of monumental tragedies – the loss of far too many pop culture icons who shaped and influenced us, numerous heartbreaking acts of violence and terrorism the world over, and don’t even get me started with the U.S. election – but for me personally, there were a lot of bright moments, too.

As we approach January 1, I wanted to reflect on all the GOOD things that happened in 2016 and concentrate on manifesting that goodness in 2017.

Here’s a recap of the things that made this year a great one for me:

  1. I tested for my first rank in Aikido, earned my hakama, and served as an uke for an Aikido master (Mary Heiny sensei). Training in martial arts has proven a big challenge for me, but the work ethic and perseverance required have made me stronger and more humble. Bonus – my mental health has improved and my anxiety has lessened drastically.
  2. I had a great publishing year! My short stories “We Share Everything,” “Catch and Release,” Bad Vibrations, “Now You See Me,” “Bad Moonlight,” and “It’s in Her Kiss” all made their way out into the world. And I’m heading into 2017 with a personal essay and two short stories queued up to be published – “Shapeless” in Under the Gum Tree, “Begin Again” in the kINKED anthology by Pen and Kink Publishing, and “He Smelled Like Smoke” in an Ink Stains anthology by Dark Alley Press. I’m also working on a trilogy of magical romance novellas for the Enchanted series by Pen and Kink Publishing, which has been both challenging and a blast.
  3. Kristy Velesko and I created photography magic together. While we were only able to do three shoots together this year (surrounded by flowers, on the beach, and underwater!), they were incredible. I’m so happy she calls me every time she’s in town, because it’s good for me to glam it up and get in front of the camera.
  4. I bought a wedding dress!
  5. I started working for Cognella, Inc., an independent academic publisher, as a content specialist. Not only am I working in my dream industry (publishing), I feel like my work is making a positive impact in the world of academia. Also, the company culture is ridiculously awesome.
  6. My fiance and I launched a website together, 2 Geeks Life, to document all our  nerdy life together.
  7. I rediscovered aerial yoga.
  8. I bought a llama holiday sweater that gives me life!
  9. I became a legit graphic novel collector.
  10. There were numerous cuddle sessions with our puppies.
  11. Bryan and I celebrated one year as San Diego residents.
  12. I attended my first San Diego Comicon!
  13. I SMASHED my Goodreads reading goal – 48 BOOKS (when my goal was 35)!

Not to mention all the food adventures, trips to new locales in San Diego, sweet, romantic moments, laughter with friends, celebrations with family, and the unexpected little joys that make this life wonderful.

I look forward to all the GOOD in 2017. I hope it finds you, too.

Wishing you all a happy New Year!

Happiness v. Joy

Photo by flickr user "Shakespearesmonkey."

Photo by flickr user “Shakespearesmonkey.”

I went to church on Easter Sunday. It’s been awhile. I’m one of those bad Christians who really only goes twice a year – if I can even commit to that. I had a bad break-up with the church years ago, so these days I tend to consider myself a person of faith – not just of Christianity, but spirituality altogether – Buddhism, Judaism, Islam – they all have some messaging I can hold onto. And the whole “person of faith” thing – that’s only on a good day. I just try to strive to be a good person who understands right from wrong and only fucks up every once in a while.

Even so, I’ll go to church. I’ll admit that I tend to feel a little uncomfortable, like I’m the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit. But I always seem to find some sort of inspiration or lesson that fits into my life, too. I’m happy to take that.

Easter Sunday was no exception. The pastor at Deer Valley Lutheran was starting a session on joy. And I learned a little something – or rather was reminded of a little something. And that’s the difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness is temporary, fleeting, usually material. Joy is something that’s constant and needs to be nurtured and lives within.

I needed that reminder on Sunday.

When I chose to quit dance performance in January, I knew it would be hard. I’ve dedicated my life since the age of 10 to showing off onstage, inspiring others through movement, sharing stories through performance. I placed most of my energy into training, costuming, building my name, taking chances. Dance makes me joyful. It isn’t temporary. It’s an identity, a way of life, something that satisfies my soul.

When you leave that behind, what’s left?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I stacked my world with future opportunities back in January – a couple of choreography gigs, intention to learn how to play the guitar, those sorts of things. But I had to wait a few months to get those projects started – and I also had to take some time to heal from a back injury in November. In the interim, I started to lose some joy.

I turned to happiness – in the form of new clothes, manicures and pedicures, lots of food, those sorts of thing. String ‘em together and there’s a hell of a lot of happiness there. But not much underneath it.

Listening to the pastor Sunday, I realized what was missing. Here’s the deal. I need joy in my life. It’s that simple.

Since Sunday, I’ve been rethinking and refocusing.

This is what joy looks like. Photo by the wonderful Devon Christopher Adams.

This is what joy looks like. Photo by the wonderful Devon Christopher Adams.

Here are the things that make me joyful:

  • Teaching – sharing my knowledge and talent with others
  • Helping others – philanthropic efforts where I make a difference
  • Making my boyfriend smile and laugh
  • Being surrounded by people who inspire me and who are simply good people
  • Artistic expression
  • Projects that require dedication and work

Yes, I’m a work horse- people pleaser-hopeful romantic with kickass friends. And I like it that way. I need it that way, because it fulfills me in ways that ice cream cones or a new cardigan never will.

And now that I’ve taken some inventory, I’ll be searching for joy daily. That search has already yielded some pretty fantastic results.

Last night marked my second night teaching choreography for a youth production of Aladdin that a good friend of mine is directing. Rehearsals are three hours, but they feel like five minutes. The kids are amazing and willing and sweet. I feel useful. I’m creating another world. I’m making a difference in the lives of these kids and if I can affect them positively in any way, I’ll be ecstatic. Last night, I happily stayed up till about 11 working on more choreography, sipping wine, and giddily rerunning the song “One Jump Ahead.”

I’ve started posting one thing I’m grateful for every day on my Facebook, so I can keep in mind all of the things that make my life so beautiful.

I’ve scheduled philanthropy projects with good girl friends, so we can give back to the community together…and dish some gossip at the same time.

I’ve been flirting shamelessly with my boyfriend. I can’t wait to see him again.

The past few days, I’ve felt full, brimming over, positive. I suddenly have so much energy and optimism. Rediscovering joy is a beautiful thing…And I’m beginning to feel like I’m back.