Stealing Joy (#stealjoy)

Stealing joy - and the hashtag #stealjoy - is a concept I first defined in 2016. To #stealjoy means to find joy in something (an activity, or even just with a sense like sight, sound, touch, taste or smell) in spite of that being difficult due to being in significant physical pain or discomfort, and faced with painful life limits. This is why it's referred to as 'stealing joy' - as one practically has to 'steal' back what seems as though it's 'being stolen' from them. It's something very applicable to those suffering and living with illness ('spoonies'). Below is the original and favorited 2017 blog.

It's hard when it feels like you're body has taken you hostage. You can never go anywhere or do anything without often experiencing some kind of unpleasant, and occasionally downright rotten or scary feelings. It makes you feel like a total prisoner if you look at it from a downtrodden point of you - a situationally depressed point of view.

But that's easy to do, and hard not to do. There is good, logical reason to resent being life limited. To be devastated by this. It's natural for many, and for some personality types more than others, to want the ability to be spontaneous, and the ability to do what's necessary whenever it comes up, without any major limitations. The latter can be a huge source of anxiety and depression, and a feeling of helplessness, when it's not possible, and this is one of the first things one with developed chronic illness faces. In time, you learn to manage this better (though it's never perfect and that's ok.) You learn limits, you even learn that sometimes you can ask for help, and/or to be accommodated, without feeling guilty or being ashamed. This is even if responses are not in your favour - then, it's "move on and next" - because if they're not in your favour, that's on the other, not you.

Chronic illness isn't predictable, and that's no ones' fault, no matter how much others who don't understand try to make it yours, or someones', or somethings' fault. One can try to manage it, like if they know they have an important event they make an extra effort to rest up so they will have "spoons" for it (spoons are energy points as per The Spoon Theory.) It's relatively likely that if a person makes an effort to take extra care before an important event, they'll be able to feel at least "ok" for it - but this is not always so. There's always a significant possibility of having to cancel the event, or go but not be able to enjoy it or take it in whatsoever, because of feeling awful; whether it be because of high pain levels, a lot of fatigue, nausea, or even something more unnerving like a palpitating heart or feeling faint.

These things can devastate, anger and depress us if we let them, for sure. Sometimes letting out a cry is what's needed, but staying there isn't good. This is when the concept of "stealing joy" can come in to help. Stealing joy helps me overall, with the reactive depression I undeniably battle due to living with this illness. It's also helped me appreciate things I used to not appreciate as much before, and it's forced me to let go of negative feelings that would come up, through guilt due to past gaslighting and unfair ignorance-born treatment, when I would do and say things in a certain way, present things in a certain way, or indulge in things that I just liked and made me feel good. When I would just "be me." For example, being outspokenly witty, and dressing up to the nines (and eccentrically!) when I feel like it, dressing sexy even. Watching crass comedy. Doing my music full throttle. Dancing like no ones' watching. Even satirically expressing anger, through dark, satirical humour, or just being silly and slapstick. Whatever it may be that one would worry, in terms of "someone judging and criticizing them."

Sadly I let bullying and/or pressure to just be a "good, normal girl" cause me to feel guilty about doing certain things, about being me. That would actually backfire when I would explode or melt down, or self medicate in ways bad for my body, as a result of too much internalization. Now I'm trying to be like (sorry to be cliche) Elsa from Frozen, ready and willing to "let it go" without shame. I tell myself I have no extra "spoons" (physical) or "forks" mental energy to care and thus stress over these things. As long as I'm not really hurting anyone, I should be able to "let it go" as I please, and turn it into something that is somehow a good outlet for me. If feelings come up and they're let out, they're then less likely to come out in worse, more toxic ways later or chronically.

Pure hedonism isn't good, but I don't think it's a bad thing if it's in moderation and not physically detrimental to the body (eg. harsh, illicit drugs)  - and if it's balanced with other things that are to some degree purposeful, though not always necessarily "super deep."

Back to stealing joy; I'm very life limited at the moment, and so for me being able to be upright, out and exerting is a precious thing in itself. So when I'm having a good, or even so-so day physically, when I'm feeling physically good enough to go do something - I like to take in my surroundings with appreciation. I try to go and do or see something that would seem ordinary to the average person - but I soak it all in. Things like a walk up the street past the park with the garden, a walk up to the cafe to walk in and observe the layout and all the people sitting there enjoying themselves, smell the freshly brewing coffee and even have a small one, being in the car observing nature, scenes and people watching, a trip to the local beach, forrest or mountain to take all that in, taking my kids to the park and watching them play for a bit, window shopping (or, actually shopping) at a thrift store, playing dress up with my clothing collection, doing art (just started that one), dancing to some favourite music, cooking or baking something elaborate (even if I can't eat it - sometimes that's still fun because I do it for my family and watching them enjoy it can be fun too, really, no lie!)

When I was living in a state of post trauma and anxiety, and I wasn't as sick as I am now, I seldom took in these things. I seldom made any effort to steal joy. I wouldn't let myself. I inherently didn't believe I deserved this. It was always survival and problem solving, or approval seeking. Not only did I not know how to steal joy, I didn't even know how to find it. In fact, I still don't inherently, but that's why I make an effort to "steal" it. I say "steal" it because I am kind of defying odds when I do it, but I have decided I'm going to have it anyway, even if "it" (the general circumstance) is threatening to deprive me. In this, it's the only ok thing to "steal" I think!

Stealing joy is deciding that I'm going to be finding the maximum amount of joy in something that I like to do, and indulging in it via taking it in with the fullest amount of sensorial appreciation possible (as long as it's not harmful.) Now that I am the way I am today, this is what keeps me going. Stealing joy from the simpler things in life is a key component of what keeps me alive today, along with doing things that I believe in, that are purposeful to make a difference, and love for my family, friends and the good parts of humanity.


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