How to Create Sparks of Joy in Difficult Times #TruthbyBrenda
I’ve got enough strikes against me in life that it actually does blow my own mind sometimes that I’m still going, that I have never given up and that I have found ways to bring joy into my life.
I was bullied growing up, both my parents died when I was a teenager, I’ve been the subject of gossip from that point on to right now, and I’ve lived through extreme poverty as a single mom raising my 2 kids completely on my own. And yes, my son was shot and killed last year.
If anyone should’ve given up a long time ago, it’s me. So why haven’t I? How have I gotten through this, and how the hell can I even talk about joy?
Here are 5 of my Top Tips on how to not just find moments of Joy but actually create more and more Joy in your life, even if you’re going through trauma, crisis or just dealing with the chaotic world events happening…
1. Never fucking give up, no matter what. Perhaps my mother committing suicide taught me to never give up, no matter how bad things get. I don’t mean that you keep on going with something that isn’t working, by the way. I mean never give up on life itself, on the journey you came here to complete, on the person you are meant to be, on your purpose, on YOU. Never give up on YOU. I know that’s easier said than done. It takes a huge amount of courage and stubbornness (persistence), and you know what? I was going to say confidence but that’s not actually true. I spent most of my life with hardly any confidence and still managed to get through all my ordeals. It’s definitely easier with a lot of confidence, but if your confidence tank is near empty, it doesn’t have to stop you from not giving up. It’s an attitude thing. Honestly, it’s my Inner Rebel who says we’ll show them – all the people who have hurt me and who are trying to hurt me right now… by creating happiness and living my purpose.
2. Water off a duck’s back. I’ve heard this from my elder Joanne Dallaire, and just over the weekend I heard it again from Johl Whiteduck Ringuette, the owner of NishDish Marketeria. I was singing at his grand opening on April 28th, 2017, and he had seen my post on Facebook about gossip going around about me. You know how duck feathers are all oiled up so the water just rolls right off? Imagine people’s negative thoughts or words about you roll off your back like water. We get to choose how we respond and even how we feel about jealous, angry, hurting people acting out, whether it’s gossip, naysaying our awesome ideas or general negativity thrown our way. I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t hurt sometimes but with practice, it has gotten way easier to not allow other people’s opinions or behaviours towards me get me down. Grow your inner strength and your outer armour – energetic protection can help. I carry a stone with me from where I grew up. What can you carry to remind you of who you really are? What can you do for yourself to grow your resilience enough to let negativity and judgment roll off your back like water?
3. Create moments of Joy and notice when you find yourself in Joy. Maybe you just watched a super funny video. Maybe your cat just purred its way into your lap. Maybe you see a baby laughing. Or maybe, just maybe, you feel sudden moments of Joy for no reason at all. That’s what happened for me back in 1998 when I was starting my healing journey. I had a moment of pure Joy, pleasure, ecstasy, connection with Spirit and Life. It just happened spontaneously. I’d never felt Joy before that moment. And I couldn’t imagine living without more of those moments, so I found ways to create them. It all starts with noticing when you feel Joy or pleasure. That way, you can do things that cause you pure positive feelings. For me, that’s drumming, singing, giving women’s circles, having spiritual conversations, listening to 80’s music, hanging out with my daughter, watching my cats play, and being in ceremony or celebration with other like-minded people. That’s why I created and give my drumming, singing, oracle cards and tea circles here in Toronto – to create the perfect environment for me to meet up with a bunch of like-minded people to do ceremony, celebrate and do the things I love. It’s a win win.
4. Practice Sacred Self-Care. This might seem obvious but in moments of extreme despair, crisis, trauma or difficult times, amplify your self-care. Sometimes you become immobilized and forget how to take care of yourself, or you might not even know what you need in the moment. The more you get to know yourself and what lifts you up or brings you back into your body or takes away some of your pain in a healthy way, the more prepared you will be in difficult times. I’ve been in situations where I had literally pennies to my name and I was still able to practice self-care. I’ve been in so much chronic pain that sometimes I can’t even think straight… but I was still able to find ways to practice sacred self-care. Sometimes it’s as simple as humming to myself, or throwing on some music I love, or wearing something particularly soft. Other times it’s going to the naturopath or the chiropractor or physio or visiting an indigenous elder. Sometimes it’s grief counselling. Sometimes it’s just staying in my cave and being alone with myself. What is it that your body, mind and soul need from you? When life is rough, more self-care is needed because our defenses are down.
5. Support! The truth is, you really might be able to do it alone… but it’s a horrible idea. It takes a lot longer, it’s much more difficult and often more painful, and you can end up fumbling around not knowing what to do. I spent about 30 years of my life doing everything myself. I couldn’t ask for help. It was so deeply programmed into my brain from childhood to NEVER ask for anything from anyone that I couldn’t ask for help. Then finally, the only way to end my cycle of toxic relationships, pain and depression was to get clear on the kinds of support I needed, and then go and get it. Now, that’s just the first step. Then you’ve got to let yourself receive it. And then, you’ve got to take what you learn and receive and put it into action. If you’ve learned something, apply it. If you got help to leave an unhealthy relationship, take the actions needed to make sure you don’t fall back into the same cycle. Get the appropriate kinds of support you need, when you need it. Nobody deserves to have to go through difficult times alone.
One last thing I will say is, you might have to get super creative. Maybe you’re in a small town, or your budget isn’t what you wish it was, or you’re super busy with 2 jobs. Whatever might be in your way, don’t let it be. Remember what I said about giving up? Just don’t. Don’t give up on YOU. Resilience requires you to dig deep sometimes, to find inner and outer resources (and believe me, those resources are there for you!), and to take uncomfortable action, to get to the greener grass.
In these uncertain times of chaos, extreme change and systems failing and falling apart, don’t be the one who holds it together. Be the one who can stand in the middle of your own vortex, your eye of the storm, and witness the falling apart, and then pick up the pieces that serve you best. Be the one who creates extra sacred space and time for self-care and to get in touch with YOU. You’re worth it.
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About Brenda MacIntyre
Medicine Song Woman Brenda MacIntyre, author and artist of the Medicine Song Oracle Cards™ & Music, is a Juno Award-winning singer, motivational speaker, indigenous drummer and wisdom-keeper. Brenda has shared her leadership and soul nationally on stage and in the media, such as MuchMusic, APTN, CTV, CP24, Global and CityTV’s Breakfast Television, as well as CBC Radio. Having experienced major loss and fear of being seen and heard, she is passionate about helping women to bring out their playfulness, edge and inner rebel, so they can live a life brimming with self-authority and soul-satisfying expression.
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