on happiness, joy and a lonely place

Last week I was feeling a little weighed down; a little funky and disconnected from myself. And, what was most frustrating was that I couldn't quite place what was bothering me. I was constantly trying to put my finger on it - was it work, friendships, worry? I couldn't figure it out. 

It got me thinking about the way we sometimes place so much value on happiness (take 10 seconds to google "how to be happy" and you'll be blown away at how many ideas pop up) that we forget to embrace the in between. Happiness is, undoubtedly a lovely feeling that I want all the time, but it's just that - a feeling. And just as other feelings ebb and flow, so it does. 

I think we get so preoccupied with figuring out how to find happiness that we rush through the process. In reality, the hard parts of life - the times when we're sad, frustrated, stuck or, like I was, just a little blah - make us appreciate the really good times. And when we can accept the less ideal times - when we let go of wanting everything to be perfect all the time and embrace reality - is when we find real joy. It's when we stop seeking momentary satisfaction and make room for inward peace and contentment. 

I recently heard a sermon about going to a lonely place and how we so often avoid lonely places for fear of how scary they feel. But every time I force myself to go to that lonely place - for example, the place when I have to sit with a negative emotion and can't simply explain it away - is when I'm reminded that God is still there; that I'm not really alone at all.

Last weekend when Chris and I were at Wade Hampton by ourselves Friday, I went for a run around the golf course. Mid-run I realized I was alone on the trail deep in the woods and, for some reason, just started dancing. For the next 20 minutes I danced solo on the fairway, golf path, stone ledge. It was a mix between the opening scene of The Sweetest Thing and Phoebe running

I danced, did round-offs, cartwheels and handstands, pretended I was on a balance beam...

If anyone saw me, they surely thought I'd (1) broken into the course and (2) had lost my marbles. 

But I didn't care. I laughed (yes, by myself, at myself) and sweated probably far more than if I'd just been running. I jammed on repeat to my spring playlist on Spotify, and by that I basically mean Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard and the last minute of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

I saw a huge flight of stairs from a distance and sprinted toward it, just so I could run up it and see the view. I lunged up hills and grapevined down. I skipped (for real. skipped). 

And it was lovely. It reminded me that sometimes I need to get out of the city, unplug completely, be by myself and stop racing to keep up on social media, with workouts and in my social life. Sometimes I need to stop consuming, instagramming and obsessing. Sometimes I need to let go, relax and just be

As it turns out, when I stopped trying to put a name to what was bothering me, I realized it didn't matter so much. When I stopped stressing about what it meant, it meant a whole lot less. In our lives, the highs and lows will continue to flow. But they don't own me or my joy. Because they're not for the taking.