it’s often the little things…

As I wrote last week, my taper and now withdrawal from a benzo brings (basically daily) physical challenges that wax and wane regarding which specific symptoms, as well as the intensity.

The past several days have been difficult, with ramped-up symptoms, although I can’t always tell which are actually due to withdrawal and which could be something else – and I do have other physical challenges that have nothing to do with the anti-anxiety medication, so there’s that too.

But whatever the cause, an increase in symptoms means I need to consciously focus even more on joy and gratitude, because otherwise I’d just get too lost in the difficulty of it all.

So in the midst of hard days, I’ve been doing my best to spend time doing things I love, or things for self-care. I’ve been looking for the moments of joy in each day, joy connections that make me smile and help me breathe and bring me back to present time.

I’ve been painting. I’ve been writing, working on fiction. I’ve been listening to music that lifts me up and lightens my spirit.

I’ve been cuddling our cute Chloe.

I’ve been pushing myself more than I often do – although I have to be careful and mindful about just how much I push, because pushing too much and overdoing the pacing can cause a setback. But when I’ve felt up to it physically, I’ve been pushing myself to go out, be around people, have a change of scenery.

This has meant hours over days writing at the library. And stopping to chat in person with old friends. And having brief bits of time with my husband in the middle of the day on his lunch break.

Another thing I’ve been doing is reading. Books are loves of mine, and my earliest memories include books, and then reading, and then writing stories with fat markers in my can-barely-write scrawl as soon as I could print words on paper. This love is what led to becoming a librarian, and a writer.

Because of eye issues the past few years, I haven’t been able to read nearly as much as I used to. But I do still read, and one of the books I’m reading right now is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

This is what I said about it on instagram:

A few weeks ago, two different people, in two different places, within 30 minutes of each other, mentioned this book and what a life impact it had. One of them mentioned a 5-session (and no-charge) online study running Nov 18 thru Dec 22, and I decided to do it. I thought I’d need to get the book but then I thought… wait, didn’t I get it already, maybe on kindle? And sure enough, I already had it – and according to Amazon, I’ve had it almost exactly 4 years… but I’d never read it. Until now.
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So now I’m reading it, and I’m doing the study that started last week, and…just wow. I hadn’t realized how strongly it would focus on three things I try so much to bring into my life: grace, joy, gratitude/thanksgiving. I don’t know why it took me so long from the time of getting this book to finally reading it, but it’s not the first time something like this has happened, and I believe books (our reading of them) can come into our world at whatever time is right for us.
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I know first-hand what a difference it makes to focus on gratitude. And joy. I’ve kept gratitude lists before…but I’ve never intentionally kept a running gratitude list of 1000. Until now. And wow.

So – in the midst of difficult and hard, I’ve been finding moments and connections of joy and happiness and laughter and inspiration and comfort and coziness and peace and love.

Painting. Writing. Cuddling the cat. Holding hands with my husband. Chatting with friends. Love. Laughter. Twinkle lights. Coffee. Comforting tv shows. Cozy blankets.

And so much more.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…

Sometimes – maybe even often – it’s the little things.

 

joy and anxiety…

During these last few months of the year, one of the main themes I’m blogging about is my journey with joy.

But I have to admit it’s hard sometimes for me to connect with joy because there are times when anxiety – and outright fear – get in the way.

My struggle with anxiety is actually what made me realize, several years ago, how very important it is for me to connect with joy… and how I need to be intentional about it. Because otherwise the anxiety and fear and grief and worry and other not-so-great-feeling things can be so much at the forefront that joy isn’t noticed (and maybe especially those small moments of joy that can pass us by before we catch them).

This isn’t about ignoring reality and pretending things are great when they’re not. It’s about paying attention, being intentional, and looking for anything big or small that brings a sense of joy.

But… is it truly possible to connect with joy and experience anxiety too?

That question has been on my mind lately, as anxiety and fear have been spiking sky high many days. Part of what’s going on for me is rebound anxiety, chemical anxiety, spurred by my body trying to adjust to no longer having anti-anxiety medication in my system. And part of what’s going on has been one life stress after another (some big, some small) piled on top of each other with seemingly little or no breathing room before something else is added to the stack.

I’m trying not to worry and fear and dread the future – but those feelings are there. I’m praying, I’m working my neural retraining programs, I’m using a variety of anxiety and stress coping tools, I’m seeking comfort in my spirituality and faith – but far too often, the anxiety and fear are dominant.

Can I really connect with joy while feeling those things?

Yes. And it’s important for me to do so.

Connecting with joy helps relieve the fear and anxiety, even if only temporarily, and even if fear and anxiety don’t completely go away.

I can sing along to a song that lights up my heart…and I’ll experience a time of joy, and the anxiety will ease, but sometimes it doesn’t completely go away. My connection to joy will mingle with a background feeling of anxiety, an unease at the edges of my awareness, maybe quieter but still present.

At other times, joy takes over and the anxiety disappears for a while. I’m grateful, so very grateful, for those times. Sunday afternoon was a recent example of this, as my husband and I took a brief walk in the park, enjoying an afternoon of somewhat-rare-lately lovely weather. I focused on joy. I breathed the fresh air. I gave thanks for the time of peace and ease.

Anxiety and fear roared back with a vengeance only a few hours later. So I focused on looking for more small moments, small things, small ways to connect with joy. Petting the cat. Snuggling under the covers to watch a favorite show. Noticing the calming glow of the fairy lights in the room.

I can’t just wait for anxiety to leave before noticing what brings me joy. I can’t simply wait for joy to unexpectedly show up (although it definitely can do that!).

I have to look for it. I have to be aware. I have to notice.

I have to consciously connect with joy.

Even when – and maybe, sometimes, especially when – anxiety is present too.