I celebrated a second birthday in lockdown this past weekend. Not something I expected to happen, nor did I have many options for celebrating, what with restaurants closed and a stay-at-home order in effect.
And yet, a patch of grass beside a cherry blossom tree brought me just as much joy as a trip might have. A charcuterie shopping trip to a local European-style cafe brought as much joy as a night out might have. And a day filled with flower deliveries and front porch visits hit me deep in the feels. It was beyond what I could have imagined for my birthday.
It reminded me that we can always find moments of beauty in everything and we can always make moments of beauty in anything. While the mainstream doom-and-gloom narrative carries on, we always have an opportunity to stop and smell the cherry blossoms.
But somehow, somewhere, living with rose-coloured glasses became a bad thing. Being optimistic became a crime.
What gives? Are negative people just not woke enough to see the beauty in life? I thought so for a long time. Perhaps if we could just throw more glitter on the world it would look rosier for them, too. But I think it’s something more than that.
Brené Brown calls joy “the most vulnerable emotion we experience”. How could that be?! We associate joy with fluffy rainbows and unicorns and living in fairy land. How could something so light be described as vulnerable?!
I learned it’s because when we are afraid of the dark, we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light. It’s not that we don’t all want to live with rose-coloured glasses on, it’s that too many of us are afraid to open our hearts too wide in case more pain slips in as well.
But joy, collected over time, fuels our resilience. It builds a reservoir of emotional strength for when hard things happen.
Those rose-coloured glasses that we use to see beauty and joy in the world?
They have another superpower.
When shit hits the fan, they act as a built-in battery pack that recharges our strength, optimism, and courage.
My nephews love playing Super Mario. They want to beat the levels, but they also like to collect as many gold coins as they can—to boost their speeds, recovery times, and to earn an extra life.
While I don’t have a desire to play Super Mario (or get beaten by a four year old), I can’t help but see the metaphor of collecting gold coins in real life, too. Collecting joy, positivity, and moments of beauty as we navigate the game of life.
We will never be able to avoid the darkness that ebbs and flows through life, but we can at least build a reservoir of strength and optimism to face it head-on.
The thing I’m most proud of with this newsletter is that somehow I’ve been able to connect with what feels like a secret, underground world of life lovers. We are ordinary people living extraordinary lives. We find joy in the simple luxuries of life and we don’t get sucked into the noise of the world.
It’s why I share so much of my joy online—not because I care if someone is impressed with my lifestyle, but because I want us to always remember that there is an option to live life outside the norm.
That we are allowed to love our careers.
That we are allowed to find joy in a lockdown.
That we are allowed to have relationships that feel like fairytales.
Choosing to be a joyful and confident person is an act of rebellion in a world that finds it easier to love a suffering person.
There’s a reason why misery loves company—in times of fear and darkness, we don’t want to be alone. We want company and the fastest, quickest way to find company? Through shared misery. But misery is a weak bond that will never fill our cups. It only creates a false sense of connection, leaving us even more disconnected than before.
It’s an act of rebellion because refusing to sit in communal misery is rejecting that kind of company. We are saying, “I don’t need your shallow company, I am holding out for deeper connection”. And deeper connection is found in shared optimism. It’s found in company that rallies towards a solution instead of wallowing in complaining.
Always remember that this is your life, not a community project. You do not have to conform to anything. In fact, it’s the people who are suffering from conforming to the rules that are the most resentful when other people break them.
It’s the person who is suffering from conforming to a negative mindset that is the most resentful when someone dares to love their life.
It’s the woman who is suffering from conforming to the “nice quiet girl” persona that is the most resentful when other women show up confidently.
It’s the man who is suffering from conforming to a stable, practical career that is the most resentful when someone finds success from unleashing their creativity.
My favourite quote from Diana Vreeland is this one, “There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.”
When I heard this, it immediately spoke to my heart. Beautiful worlds that only a Parisian woman of zealous aesthete could have birthed into this world.
A very good life, she says, is a life you know you want. Not the one others are living, not the one you’re expected to be conforming to, and absolutely not the one you might be settling for.
A very good life, she also says, is a life you make for yourself. Oh how young and dumb we were, wanting to win the lottery or to be rich and famous. How we thought that being handed success was the ultimate dream, when really, being handed nothing is the best gift. Because then we can discover that everything we could ever want or need is already deep within us. A secret garden that lives within us all—a magical place that is locked up with a key hidden out of sight. A garden that, when neglected, will wither and die, but when worked on and cared for, will thrive.
Are you tending to your inner secret garden? Is it thriving and blooming in every colour of the rainbow?
Do you know what a very good life looks like for you?
Do you have the desire to make a very good life for yourself?
You’re in good company if you do.