Find That “One Thing,” Find Joy

We all have a “happy place” or “happy activity,” but sometimes we get lost in the day’s events, work activities, responsibilities and lose sight of that one thing that really “fills our well,” lifts our spirit. It’s our core being and without it we can feel like we’re suffocating in life. We can feel drained to the point where our loved ones don’t feel loved anymore. How can we love them if we don’t even love ourselves?

My wife and I recently dealt with this issue. First, it was my wife. I could tell she was sinking, not happy, lying around. Here we were retired, traveling, no worries, no health issues, but something was missing from her life. We looked back over what had changed. It turned out she really missed having a dog and missed the caring for the grandchildren and her plants. The main theme that ran through all these things is caring for them. Caring for plants, people, and animals — and sometimes husbands — really fills her spirit immediately.

So, we went home. We rescued a dog that she dotes on. The grandchildren she sees at least once a week and she started growing and selling succulent plants online. Her happiness soared. She laughs, again. She’s her old funny self . . . most days.

I’m still in the dog house, occasionally.

Our rescue dog, Ruby

Next it was my turn to lapse into sullenness a year later. It happened so quick and I didn’t recognize it, but my wife did. She said. I can tell you are suffocating. What do you miss that you need in your life?

I knew right away. I told her I need to create. I want to finish writing my novel even if no one read it. I wanted to write this blog, write letters to friends, complete small projects I started around the house.

Within ten minutes of me sitting at my computer stringing words together, I felt my spirits lift. I felt a sense of joy and contentment. My wife commented on my different mood as she walked by my desk.

I thought about other creative projects I particularly wanted to see completed, especially with my ’94 Toyota truck I’m renovating for a camping trip. Though working on the camper shell and putting in lights interests me, I found that it did not lift my spirit. It felt more like a chore than a gift to me. As soon as I went back to writing — creative writing — my spirits lifted.

I’ve always felt that I wanted to be a creative writer. I avoided it for financial reasons, but now in my later years I see how much of life I’ve missed by not focusing on what my intuition had led me to.

Finding that one in life that makes one feel joy, sometimes isn’t easy. How does one find their “One Thing” that lifts their spirit, to make one feel happier or more carefree when one is not sure?

I ponder this question and came up with a few possibilities, though none of the following ideals is proven by science. They are possible answers.

What attracts you?

Looking at what reading material , television shows, places you visit or conversations that energizes you. These can give hints as to what you enjoy. I love going into book stores and wandering the aisles. I love reading about authors, their lives, their thoughts about writing. I enjoy a good adventure novel. Most of all I love going to book festivals and listening to authors talk about their latest works. This hints to me a direction to look.

Who do you admire?

Looking back at people you admire living or dead. Are you living vicariously through that person? Do you really long to be doing what they are doing but fear trying? A friend admires doctors and nurses and puts them in high regard. One time she fell into conversation with a doctor she met. He interrupted the conversation to ask, “Are you in the medical field?” The woman blushed and said, “No.” He said, “You fooled me.”

What were your favorite activities or your greatest successes growing up?

Sometimes we lose track of the thing we found such great satisfaction. We might take it for granted or negated it as some silly thing, but it could hold a kernel of truth to what gives you inner strength to keep going. I remember writing, producing and directing a play when I was younger. I didn’t think anything of it. It was a kid thing, but it started me thinking about all the crazy creative endeavors I did as a kid. I created stories in my room. I created a carnival, a bowling alley, a game show, a new board game. I loved creating something from nothing. As I grew older I abandoned those activities as childish and frivolous. Years later I’m coming back to these same things because they renew my spirit.

Will an assessment help?

Assessments are a fancy word for tests. I love certain personality assessments that give you an idea of your preferences.. They must be viewed in a “free thinking” manner, not to label yourself. It’s not empirical science but not a parlor game either. It might just stir a memory you hadn’t thought about in years or one that you buried.

Some examples are the Myers Briggs and StrengthFinders. Both of these tests offer someone possible ideas to one’s preferences. Preferences are what you lean toward, what’s most comfortable to you. A good example of a physical preferences is the hand you write with. That’s your preference. Now, imagine your preference toward interests, passions, and activities.

You can find a free Myers Briggs test online. There is a fee for the StrengthFinders, though.

After taking both. The thing at stands out is my preference and strength with creativity.

When I saw this it awoke in me something I hid from myself, something I buried inside and did not tell anyone, but there it was in print in front of me. I felt a cold chill run down my spine as if I had been exposed. “How did that know that about me? I had never mentioned it to anyone?” That one thing was to be a creative writer.

So, now I don’t ignore the feeling. I do what satisfies me: to create and especially to write creatively. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads what I write. It’s the process that’s valuable and fulfilling. In being creative, I feel good about myself. So much so that I can give back to my family, friends, and others in my community.

Step out of you comfort zone.

Maybe you still haven’t found that “one thing” that really peps you up. Maybe it’s just a step away, though. Sometimes we have to wander into uncharted activities to connect with that one thing that will bring us joy.

For one young husband and father, it was starting a business. He reached a new low in life and felt so empty and depressed at his life situation. With income low and bills high and a new child to care for, he felt old beyond his years. Someone mentioned starting a cleaning business. The man scoffed at the idea, but he needed money. He went ahead and tried it anyway and after his first job, his joy for life came back. It wasn’t the actually work. It was that he was creating something from nothing. Creating a business where he provided a service and eventually he would give people jobs. He would never have considered starting a business had he not been forced to earn more money somewhere.

So, what is it that makes you feel so good about yourself that you can start giving back to others.

There was an old television show back in the 1960’s where a boxer had a day job as a janitor at a business. He was the happiest person in the world at his job: so friendly with all the customers, so helpful to anyone that needed a hand, but the owner did not like that he was a boxer, and asked him to quit. She felt that being a pugilist was an uncivilized hobby.

So, to he honored her request and quit the ring. Well, within a week, that same man became rude, uncivil and down right mean to people. The owner and other employees recognized that he was not the same person, that boxing was his “happy place.” The owner suggested the man go back to boxing. He did and his old nice personality came back.

The moral to me: don’t give up who you are to please someone else. You wind up pleasing no one, including yourself. Find that one thing.

Find that one thing, find your joy.

Peace, Love, Joy

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