Author: Julie Rae

backstroke joy

While swimming in the ocean a few weeks ago I took a leap. Or rather, a flip. I turned onto my back and played with reaching my arms overhead and finding a backstroke. Having assessed my surrounds I felt confident I wouldn’t crash into a surfer or land mass – even if my first attempt took me into circles or obscure zig zags. Given the surf, my first time was short lived but I caught a glimpse of JOY along the way.

Trying again in a pool, I waited for a lane to clear out – avoiding probable collisions and potential ejection from the club, not to mention eternal shame. Much to my amazement, I ended up swimming rather straight with my new found stroke. I only hit the lane marker a few times and somehow even avoided hitting my head a the end of the 50 meters.

Even more surprising – I had a loopy smile plastered across my face the whole time. There’s something about opening up the front of the body that feels both vulnerable and freeing. Face to the sky – watching clouds and birds float by broadened my smile. And blindly stretching your arms overhead – not fully knowing where they’ll land .. .well, bliss. Maybe it’s the JOY of the unknown, not relying on our eyes, or just falling in love with another first. But a child like glee certainly ran through my body.

Give it a go! See how much JOY you can find with one good flip.

the joy of enough

I came across an interesting perspective recently – mulling over if gratitude and ambition were at odds in ourselves. It’s a fascinating topic. After all, we seem to be designed to push ourselves, to do more, to be more, to grow and to win. And forward motion is certainly attractive. It keeps us consuming and helps us focus on our goals. What would the make-up or even wellness industry thrive on if we weren’t slightly obsessed with being ‘better’ versions of ourselves? At our core, we want to accomplish things no matter how grand or small. Even on holidays or long weekends, we tend to prepare a mental list of ‘what I did’ items that can be shared with others when they inevitably ask us to reflect on the time we just experienced.

Where does gratitude fit in? Gratitude asks us to be grateful today. To give thanks for exactly what we have right now. No projecting into the future, no longing or hoping for more or different. Just here. Just now. If we’re grateful for who we are and what we have, does that automatically mean we’ll want to achieve or strive for less?

I’m sure ambition and gratitude can co-exist yet it’s an interesting pull. For me, I love challenges and it’s important to set goals and celebration accomplishments – but the balance has shifted to knowing I am and I have ‘enough’. That’s pure JOY.


tipping joy

There are endless ways to express JOY – laughter; high fives; dancing; words or letters of gratitude; hugs; the list goes on and on. For me, one popular device is to tip.

Do you tip? Maybe it’s my American upbringing or my close to the surface memories of waitressing and being thrilled to see someone give you cash of their own free will . . . but tipping is part of my DNA. I like to think it’s not an automatic response, but instead, something that marks an out of the ordinary experience. I’ve had two of these sweet experiences recently.

Since piccolos are the coffee of choice for both me and Richard, we’ve grown more and more confused at the growing surcharges for soy or almond milk. The tiny amount of milk added hardly seems worth the 50 cents or even $1 – gulp. So imagine my JOY when ordering two almond picos recently at a café in Rose Bay and being charged six bucks. Yup – that was the cost for BOTH. Ha! The barista/owner was on the bandwagon of cafes overcharging for mere drops of milk. And in return, she received a lavish tip from me. Now, you might suggest that my tipping negated the benefit of the low-cost cuppa joe, but for me, it was a monetary offering that reflected a JOYful experience.

As my coffee settled, I noticed my spontaneous manicure from a few days ago was chipping and the polish needed to come off. I wondered if a nail salon would complete the task for $5 or so. I popped into a salon I’ve never visited and tested the waters. They checked out the damage and declared ‘no charge’ and in 20 quick seconds, my polish was gone. Success! As my JOY bucket was full, I offered to pay them for such a great service. Again, they voiced ‘no charge’. Since I had a few coins rattling around and wanting to share my JOY, I left $4 on the table. As I left, they came charging after me with the coins, now shouting, ‘no pay, no pay!’ I turned around and said ‘you’ll have to catch me’ and I started running. I peeked back to have one more look and fortunately, they weren’t running after me but instead had crumbled into a bit of a heap, with laughter shaking their bodies.

Yup, JOY is best shared.

lending joy

In an ugly turn of fate, several of my closest friends have been dealt extremely rotten cards lately. I have friends facing anxiety, cancer, divorce, MS, reconstructive surgery, AVOs and reoccurring bouts of more cancer. My heart bleeds for them. I want to take away their pain, their worry, their fear and replace it with something uplifting, or perhaps even just normalcy.

As a friend, what do we truly have to offer? And how do we react in these situations?

More than one of these friends has insisted they don’t want to be seen as a victim. That label seems more painful for them than even their illness. One brave soul has even gone so far as not to share her news with people as she can’t stomach seeing that ‘poor you’ face again and again.

It’s nearly impossible to say the right thing or even have the right reaction when you hear terrible news connected to someone you love. But perhaps there’s still room for JOY. Maybe when someone is suffering, it’s time for us to lend a bit of the JOY that naturally flows in our healthy bodies and minds. I reckon JOY is always worth giving and receiving.

backwards joy

Since learning to swim, I’ve noticed that I’m always subtlety aware of forward movement. As my head twists upwards during each breath cycle, my eye catches a landmark, another swimmer, perhaps a piece of sky, all reassuring me that I’m moving forward, albeit sometimes rather slowly, progress is being made.

On a recent ocean swim, heading back towards Bondi beach, I was suddenly and acutely aware that forward movement had ceased. In fact, I was being pushed backward. Being a bit of a novice ocean swimmer, it was hard to convince me not to panic. During the milliseconds of negotiating with my anxious brain, JOY flooded my body as I was lifted with weightless ease and propelled forward with force and momentum beyond my own effort. Yup, I was merely catching a wave towards shore. And the sensation of being held down and pushed backward happened again and again just before the waves connected and thrust you forward. Beautiful little signs like seeing small fish sucked back to sea, are tells, foreshadowing the next inevitable low and high.

I reckon the sea is a lot like life. Who hasn’t been pulled under and started to panic when backward motion seemed to dominate life? We’ve all been caught in the current of pain and negativity, questioning our progress. But trusting that the Universe will propel you forward is worth remembering. If we can do that, maybe we can even find JOY in the backward motion of life, knowing it’s fleeting too.

And hey, sometimes it’s not just a wave and you are well and truly in a rip. When that happens, we all need to change tact, switch gears, and find a new path to shore. It’s no use fighting a battle you simply can’t win.

tails of JOY

A stunning woman in New Zealand recently took her last breath and as she did so an energetic fantail entered in through her bedroom window, fully at home. To the amazement of those at hand, the bird flew through the house before finding a resting place above her bed. After a few minutes of peaceful chirping, the fantail found its way outside, back through the sliver of the opened window.

It’s worth noting in Maori culture, the fantails are seen as a sign of death inside a house. Given the magnitude of this woman and the timing of the flight, I think they must signal peace and recognition of one perfectly JOYfully lived life.

pursuing JOY

I came across an article recently that I thoroughly enjoyed. The topic was about the conundrum of chasing material possessions and losing the ability to truly enjoy our leisure time along the way. The quote I loved is:

To purchase luxury we’ve sold our ease.

In our never ending pursuit of ‘stuff’, let’s make sure we prioritize a bit of leisure. Surely its the fast track to more JOY.

right side up JOY

I was practicing yoga in my lounge recently and I got a tremendous shock. I was fully enjoying my favorite inversion, a headstand when out of the corner of my eye I saw my reflection. Yikes! Surely that’s not my face! The image I saw more closely resembled a hound dog not human. The folds of skin hung down with total relaxation into what can only be described as jowls. Somehow gravity was pulling down with enough force to cause folds of skin across even the eyes and ears.

Perhaps it’s happened. Maybe this is the year my face fell.

I thought I had a healthy level of vanity. Most days I make sure to groom my unruly eyebrows and even slather my skin with eye cream that’s probably not giving me a great return on investment. I’ve stopped short of powders, pills or procedures that would alter my body. But seeing my face upside down and completely void of elastic . . .well, it’s not a vision I’ll soon forget.

I was sharing this story with a dear (much younger and full of facial elastic) friend and she thought this was happening around us all the time. Our bodies become rounder, looser, day by day, but we don’t recognize the gradual decay until suddenly there’s an odd bit of flesh under our arm one day that’s definitely not a side boob!

So for me, I’m once again resetting my expectations and reminding myself that I truly want to age with some level of grace. Oh, and clearly I’m meant to stay right side up to fully embrace JOY!

joy face

Since moving back to the seemingly self-conscious shores of Bondi, I’ve noticed random folks engaging me in conversation. And these aren’t your run of the mill – ‘Hey, nice day today’ chats. Instead, they’ve been rather in-depth points of connection. The last one occurred just this afternoon.

After swimming some laps at Icebergs I longed for the heat of the sauna. Once I entered the tiny little room of steam it became obvious it was overcrowded and I would need to push in a bit to find a spare parcel of bench. And, the bodies that were on display were a sample of Bondi’s finest. Fit tight abs and pert bits of flesh adorned the svelte female beings while the males glistened. Oddly, once I found an inch of bench for my bottom, a young man started chatting to me. First, his questions centered on my Garmin, and then they moved to my accent, fitness routine, yadda yadda, as they say. I found it odd that this man, many many years my junior, would want to engage in dialogue with someone near exhaustion with deep set goggle marks due to complete lack of facial elastic (that’s a thing, right?)

Then it struck me. Despite my amazing partner’s short-sighted belief that I ‘rock’ a bikini, I think random people tend to speak to me in a friendly manner because I smile. I even go further. I make eye contact! Imagine that . . .I actually enjoy connecting with others and invite them in – be they strangers or dear friends. I guess I wear my JOY instead of the Bondi closed face that many folks seem to unknowingly wear.

So, what does your face say to strangers? Try injecting your’s with a bit more JOY and let the conversations flow.

the colour of joy

While Sydney has been experiencing an extraordinary level of rainfall, I’ve noticed people starting to wear darker clothes. Gone are the bright splashes of pink and yellow, floral prints and even glittered nails. Instead, we’re covering ourselves in muted tones and black from head to toe is the new norm. The gray skies seem to have permeating our wardrobes. And of course, moods seem to follow.

Which got me thinking . . . does JOY have a colour? And if so, which one is it for you?

For some, maybe black does elicit JOY. But for me, I’ve been making a conscience effort to add my fuchsia tasseled earrings to an otherwise black outfit, or even bright orange lippie to a gray ensemble. These bursts of colour feel important to my state of mind. And interestingly, people seem to respond. Over a beige top, I recently added my necklace of gumball coloured beads, and someone quickly commented how playful my outfit was.

So, what’s your colour of JOY? Be brave and try adding a few shocks of colour this rainy season. You just might find your steps are a bit lighter.