Ugly Joy

I was recently invited to a dress up Halloween party. And I LOVE dressing up in costume. After toying with a few ideas I decided to dress up as Cinderella’s ugly stepsister. And wow, being a very ugly version of myself proved to be very JOYful! Maybe it’s the push back against a society geared towards making us feel just south of pretty. We buy frocks, fancy shoes, luscious lipstick, cultivate new hairstyles and even polish our toes just to feel a subtle shade more ‘pretty’. Sure, there’s a ‘plain’ undercurrent as well, people who celebrate being make-up free and feel the need to promote it on Instagram. And speaking of pics, you can’t walk 50 meters in Bondi without interrupting a photo shoot. Selfies have become normal in every public setting and filters on offer provide just the right glow.

We’ve become obsessed with the surface. So to actively make my surface a little bit hideous felt naughty and intriguing. And when folks at the party realized there were actual whiskers growing out of my mole. . . . well, you can understand my JOY! Go ahead, push against the norm, embrace your ugly bits and see if you can find some JOY.

polarised JOY

During a great conversation with my fabulous partner, I asked him if he had the chance to reflect . . . but before I could go further he said – ‘Nope!’ I laughed and then checked in to see what he meant. He offered, “I don’t hold up a mirror and reflect. I think I prefer a window – I like to look out.”

Wow! I think we’ve just cracked another Mars v Venus layer. Almost every woman I know spends a lot of time reflecting. And not just on her life, her actions, and her words, but the life, actions, and words of others! I see it unfold in the business world, daily. After a big presentation, my female CMO immediately dives into motivations behind individual comments, reading into tone and gestures displayed, even eye contact or lack thereof. I have yet to hear these themes debated by the males who were in the same meeting.

And it goes further. When a woman reflects on the behaviors of those she loves, she often can’t stop herself from offering ideas and ways to improve their particular situation. And guess what, when those observations are offered up to her male partner, he probably sees it as nagging. Why? Because he’s looking forward . . . out that damn window.

Find some JOY in a new perspective.

musical joy

I recently started taking harmonica lessons. I love the challenge of learning something new and I’ve already had little glimpses of JOY. After two lessons I’ve been able to just eek out the preamble to a famous Beatles tune. While sitting at an airport last week, I found a quiet corner to practice my homework. I was conscious of not intruding on the soundscape of others, so I was playing extra softly, facing a window. When I packed up to find my gate, I turned around and was a bit flabbergasted to find a small crowd of people surrounding me. One very excited woman rushed up to me and said “That was wonderful! They should have you here every day – your music is so calming.” Ha! You can imagine my surprise that my novice efforts were met with such positive enthusiasm. The crowning glory was when she added: “This is the best thing that’s happened to me at an airport.” JOY is definitely magnified when it’s shared.

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.