BY BEVIN BRANLANDINGHAM
Years ago I started calling my blog a chronicle of the relentless pursuit of my joy. I’ve known from The Success Principles by Jack Canfield (I highly recommend reading it or listening to the abridged audio book) that joy is a compass that helps you find where you’re meant to go in this world. It’s amazing how you can hear something and believe something but putting it into practice is really difficult. One step at a time, definitely.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a spiritual advisor/friend about my businesses and how I’ve been struggling to make financial ends meet for the last year while still carving out time to finish my book. I am a part time attorney with my own firm as well as give workshops andproduce events. These are all pursuits that bring me different levels of joy and connection. Her insight was, “Maybe you don’t believe you deserve this life? Maybe there’s something blocking it?” Something resonated deep and I’ve been working on the deserve part of it ever since.
A bit after that I had three big, weird, hard and hurtful things happen within twenty-four hours–culminating in this subway harassment. I was doing a lot of crying about these things and struggling. I am a faithful person who believes in the ultimate good in the universe but I had some moments of looking up into the sky going “Really?”
My friend Drae throws this party for queers over thirty called Prime. (Next one is August 17th in Brooklyn.) One of the amazing things she has at the party is free “Woo Counseling.” An intuitive named Shaina sits with you, does a read on you or clears your chakras. I agreed to work the door at Prime as long as I got to see Shaina first before my shift. I told Shaina about the three events and she said, “You’re doing great! These things are just telling you you’re on the right path! What you need to do is change your radio frequency to joy and this stuff won’t affect you so hard.”
She explained that we vibrate on different frequencies. It’s very similar to how thoughts control your life (see Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life for a great primer on the law of attraction). If you’re on a dial where you think everything is against you, shift it up a few notches and vibrate on joy. Focus on happiness, silliness, playfulness, creativity. I do a lot of regular practices to keep my creative juices flowing and focusing on joy is definitely one I had been letting slip in my artistic hygiene. I’m a very positive person, but even when you believe in positivity it’s easy to slip and forget to revel.
So I took Shaina’s advice. I got even more focused on grounding myself every day. I turn my phone to airplane mode when I go to bed and I don’t turn it back on until I’ve woken up, had iced lemon water, written my morning pages, done my affirmations, given ALF his pill and told my dog I love her. Morning pages are a practice from The Artist’s Way and they are a sort of meditative, tenth step inventory, prayerful, garbage dump of thoughts longhand on three pages every morning. Some people do 20 minutes but I need to fill the pages and sometimes the thoughts come fast or slow.
I have a bunch of affirmations I’ve written for myself but I also incorporate these Badass Resilience: Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love and Desire Affirmations By Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Keisha Williams every morning. Looking into a mirror and saying them into my eyes if I can.
I feel pretty awesome that I’ve done all of these grounding exercises (and even some yoga) every day for four weeks, which is remarkable consistency for me.
Shaina also suggested I have a “mind diet” and focus on my joy. Learn a song and perform it in a video, for no big deal other than to do it. I started learning a song but what I ended up doing with it was using the song whenever my mind was slipping to not joyful thoughts.
I also know that gratitude practice is really helpful for me to orient myself to joy. The idea is that if you focus on the abundance in your life it will attract more abundance.
Lately I have been taking note of these moments that feel like a Noxema commercial in my life. You know in the opening scene of Clueless where Cher narrates, “I know you’re going, is this like a Noxema commercial or what? But I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl.” Cher totally doesn’t have a normal life, and neither do I. I think the first moment I thought of that I was watching a bunch of my friends dance on a bench at WHAM BAM in the twilight while Hall and Oates was playing.
Every time I have a Noxema commercial moment I stop and acknowledge it. Either to myself or to my friends specifically. At a midnight beach party on the third of July, my friend Quito spent three nights staking out the perfect illegal spot for folks to converge on a beach in the Rockaways. It was so dark you couldn’t see anyone but the folks you came with. It was intimate, adventurous and completely beautiful. Last week late night pool party swimming with a bunch of queer porn stars and sex workers at a conference in Vegas. I was in the pool commenting to someone, “This is my real life.”
I appreciate these crazy adventures, I appreciate all the living I do through even the rough spots that hurt. I think the hurt is sand paper that’s smoothing out the parts that need it so I can fit myself to the next adventure. Maybe if I wasn’t hurt so hard when my engagement ended nearly six years ago I wouldn’t have the alchemy needed to have these Noxema commercials in the summer of 2013?
I think this plays into the “do I deserve this” question which is that since I am given it and I work hard for it, I do deserve it. I get to enjoy it and revel in it. I should do those things.
My friends have also been amazing. I have had a hard time being open to romantic interludes but letting my friends woo me has been great practice at heart opening. Three weeks in a row I got flowers from a friend just because they wanted to be sweet to me. Even the amount of kind words has been incredible. Jacqueline in particular has been the most romantic friend I’ve ever had, last week in Vegas she woke me up by spooning me when she knew I needed it and drew me a bath after she saw me having a hard conversation–this bath also had bubbles, rose petals, Prince’s “Adore” on repeat (one of my favorite Prince songs) and hotel-brewed hibiscus iced tea. Her game is FIERCE.
So I’ve been on this mind diet for a month and I have to say I had to suspend a little disbelief about it (as in thoughts of “I don’t know if this is really working”) because I’ve had this weirdo cloud over me for awhile. I know that I can hold multiple conflicting emotions at once, which is not something I realized I could do until a couple of years ago. For example, just because I have some sadness and hard feelings that creep around doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy other things and experience moments of joy. Conversely, just because I have the mind diet doesn’t mean that suddenly everything was great. Being joyful requires work, tons of self care and conscious orientation towards exuberant joy.
But I think it’s really working. It’s been one month exactly since I began it. Because I was doing such good work focusing on my feelings, I could parcel out things I might need some bigger help with. I emailed Katie at Empowering Astrology about it and she said it was work I could do on my own, but if I wanted to have a 30 or 60 minute session with her to work on it we’d see if Spirit wanted it and the money would come. And then, the very next week, I won a session with her in a raffle at a conference I went to. It was very random and serendipitous. The session I had with her yesterday helped me feel more empowered and lively than I have in months. Not since my break-up/extended break-up remix and my cat passed away.
I might write up my session more in-depth when I figure out the words for the twists and turns of the universe lately, but today I’m just enjoying this simple joy, release and lightness of being. Here’s a write-up from my first session with Katie.
So, to summarize, this is how my mind diet tuning my radio dial to joy went down:
1. I ground myself every morning.
2. I focus on gratitude.
3. I do silly things.
4. I shift negative/hard thoughts towards joyful ones.
5. I pay attention to my feelings.
6. I ask for help.
7. I let love in.
For sure I am going to keep these practices up. I would love to hear in the comments how you tune your radio dial to joy!
Originally published on QueerFatFemme.com